Should I get my Irish passport, or should I continue to be English?
December 11, 2018 4:59 AM   Subscribe

I am a UK citizen with the opportunity to apply for an Irish passport, as I have an Irish-born grandmother. However, I've never lived in nor visited Ireland, and my grandmother died before I was born. Is it ethical for me to claim citizenship?

I haven't applied for it yet as a) it costs 300EUR to register as a Foreign Birth, and since Brexit that's a lot more money than it was and I keep thinking of more pressing things to do with it b) the requirements for having the form witnessed are far more stringent than a UK passport application, and I've been struggling to work out how to get it done. I may easily be able to cover a) later in the year, and have found a solution to b).....but since I started looking into it and getting my paperwork together a couple of years ago, I've been thinking more and more about whether I should.

I haven't visited Ireland, much less lived there, and my grandmother was born in 1907 so is now deceased. I don't have a personal connection with the country, and I know some Irish people are concerened about it being used as a 'passport farm'. I'm not planning to move there/vote there etc. at the moment. Part of me wants to apply in case the loophole is closed post-Brexit, and part of me thinks that it might not be right if the main reason is to hold onto EU privileges if I want to exercise them in future. Am I beanplating this?

(On a practical level - applying for citizenship will not affect my UK citizenship, I can hold both.)
posted by mippy to Law & Government (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hello from Ireland.

It's completely ethical. You are completely beanplating this. Ireland didn't declare eligibility to all tertiary descendants wishing to move to Ireland; it declared eligibility to all tertiary descendants. The legislature was free to do otherwise, but the law does reflect the intent.

You can't vote anyway; we don't have postal voting so unless you are resident and on an electoral roll, you cannot vote.

Apply, get it to maintain your EU citizenship.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:17 AM on December 11, 2018 [26 favorites]

I went through a similar thought process and decided that yes, this was ethical.

I hold an Italian passport acquired through ancestry. I don’t speak Italian, I don’t live there, and I don’t really like the current government of Italy at all. Yet I vote as an overseas citizen and have used my Italian passport to visit countries where my US passport would either not let me enter independently or where it was free/much cheaper to visit as an Italian. The Italian consulate where I live has been welcoming and deals with citizens like me all the time. I feel nothing less than totally welcome.

One angle to consider is how historically Ireland and Italy both depended on outward labour migration and remittances to deal with rural overpopulation and a lack of development. To me, it is the height of ethical behaviour that the people’s representatives in the Parliaments of both countries continue to welcome us, the descendents of migrants. If they wanted to change the law, they would, but they don’t; this isn’t a loophole but the will of a democratically elected government. Additionally, and somewhat cynically, the heritage journey I have gone on on multiple visits to Italy has brought the small towns my family is from additional tourism euros.

Consider also the value that having two passports will also provide to your descendents. Once you are Irish, so too can your partner and children be. So the decision doesn’t only positively affect you; it positively affects future generations.

Finally, you already are an Irish citizen under their laws. Just as you would change your driver licence over to that of a new country if you lived there long enough, you are merely
going through a bureaucratic motion to embody in paperwork what is already true. And your EU “privileges” are rights, many of which would have been guaranteed to British people living in the EU27 after Brexit Day anyway: they would have had the same settled status EU residents have in Britain. Why deny yourself the right to have what a retiree in Spain or a teacher in Germany has? The fate of the deal currently on offer is uncertain and in times like these, having an escape route can be reassuring.

300 euros isn’t much to pay when you consider it an investment in generations of your family’s future. The law says you are welcome, not that you are clambering through a loophole or sneaking in the back door. Do it.
posted by mdonley at 5:22 AM on December 11, 2018 [16 favorites]

There's countries that require you to show a real ongoing connection to a country in addition to ancestry. Ireland has deliberately chosen not to do that, a decision that was reached through a democratic law-making process and to the best of my knowledge it is not remotely controversial in Ireland. It isn't a loophole or anything. This is the desired effect of the law and the settled will of the Irish electorate.
posted by atrazine at 5:31 AM on December 11, 2018 [13 favorites]

I'm a Canadian citizen because my dad was born there, despite the fact that he moved to the US as a teenager and has very few connections left in Canada. I had a (British, which is extra ridiculous) friend who was very distressed that I got a Canadian passport, but that's absurd -- they've written the laws that way for a reason! If they wanted to exclude folks like me, they would have. I have a good friend who got his Irish passport through the same mechanism available to you, and while he's lived and traveled all over the world, he's never spent much time in Ireland. It's been very useful to him anyway, and as far as I know no one's ever given him an ounce of shade.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:39 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

The law says you're entitled to one, then you're entitled to one. The question is if it makes any sense for you. I would imagine with the upcoming Brexit business, it might be a good idea to have a EU passport as you could then travel to the continent with minimal hassle. (Though, of course it's not settled yet in which case the cost and logistical difficulty might make it not worth your while.)
posted by From Bklyn at 5:42 AM on December 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yes it is 100% ethical. It is also quite literally the law of the land, and as mentioned above good hedge. Also, this isn't either/or; plenty of people have both British and Irish citizenships/passports, so I don't see the issue here (you can renounce British citizenship, and there are sometimes good reasons to do so - e.g. sometimes to do with the UK's draconian spouse visa rules versus the more generous EU rules - but they tend to be edge cases).
posted by plep at 5:58 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

The only way I can think of for it to be unethical is if you were taking something away from someone else or otherwise harming either country in any way. It doesn't sound like you would be.

(Really, in a morally just world we would all be able to move freely and live where we wished. There are plenty of reasons for borders and restricted citizenship, but those justifications are themselves pretty ethically problematic.)
posted by trig at 7:03 AM on December 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

Countries can extend citizenship to whoever they like. If you fit the criteria, you fit the criteria. That's really all there is to it- you're not perpetrating a fraud on the Irish people by applying for citizenship.

Ireland flat-out hands passports out to whoever can pay them enough money. This is quite common- the US and UK have similar programs. You can bet most of the people receiving those passports have no particular connection to Ireland either.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:58 AM on December 11, 2018

Given the viciousness of the modern state-citizenship regime, i can detect nothing unethical in taking up a right that is clearly legally yours.
posted by praemunire at 8:34 AM on December 11, 2018 [3 favorites]

One angle to consider is how historically Ireland and Italy both depended on outward labour migration and remittances to deal with rural overpopulation and a lack of development.

I agree with this in terms of the ethical argument: the (20th-century) diaspora is legally considered part of the extended nation, and Irish citizens are fine with that.

On the pragmatic argument: if Ian Paisley Jr is fine with assisting his staunch Unionist constituents in obtaining Irish passports (or as he prefers, "EU documents") then you shouldn't feel bad about going through the process either.
posted by holgate at 11:41 AM on December 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

I do not have the opportunity to have another passport and I really wish I had that option. Get the Irish passport.
posted by theora55 at 3:22 PM on December 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yes, absolutely. On the practical side, you don't know what the future holds. Who could have predicted Brexit a few years ago? The Irish govt may change its mind. Britain leaves the EU, Scotland leaves the UK and now some future opportunity of yours (new job, marriage, etc) is just shut off. I'm just painting one scenario of course.

On the ethical side of things, it is even clearer at least for me. As others have said, Ireland has determined that you already *are* an Irish citizen. Now they ask that you fill in some paperwork to claim it.

(I also may be an extremist in that I think borders themselves are unethical constructs and any opportunity of limiting their power and finding common ground with other elements of humanity on this planet is in itself an ethical act.)
posted by vacapinta at 6:02 AM on December 12, 2018

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