The statute law governing Irish citizenship is the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended. The 1956 Act has been amended by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1986, 1994, 2001 and 2004.
The right to Irish citizenship granted to all persons born on the island of Ireland (Northern Ireland and the Republic) was inserted into the Constitution by way of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. Until recently the acquisition of citizenship was, therefore, placed beyond the remit of the legislature. The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004 now sets out the conditions under which Irish citizenship may be granted to a child born in Ireland to non-Irish national parents. One of the parents must have been legally resident in the island of Ireland for three years during the four years immediately preceding the child’s birth. Periods spent in the State pursuing education or awaiting determination of an asylum application do not qualify in this regard.
The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2001 contains significant provisions that affect people who wish to obtain Irish citizenship through marriage to an Irish citizen. If the marriage took place on or before 30 November 2002, it is possible for the non-Irish national spouse to become a citizen by making a post-nuptial declaration of citizenship (with additional conditions). If the marriage took place after that date the non-Irish national spouse may be able to naturalise at the Minister’s “absolute discretion” if s/he, inter alia, has resided for one year in Ireland and during the four years prior to application had a total residence in Ireland amounting to two years. Non-Irish nationals may acquire citizenship by naturalisation if they have, inter alia, one year of continuous residence along with periods amounting to four years total residence within the eight years prior to their application. The Minister may also, in his absolute discretion, grant an application for a certificate of naturalisation in certain categories of cases, including with regard to refugees, where the applicant does not comply with the conditions for naturalisation, such as the four-year residence requirement.
In 2011, the 1956 Act, as amended, was further amended by the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 to bring its provisions into line with the Civil Partnership Act 2010.