Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Department of Foreign Affairs
As the incident to which the Deputy refers is the subject of legal proceedings in another jurisdiction, I will not comment on any elements which are sub judice, but will limit my reply to the role of my Department in providing consular assistance to the person concerned. In regard to this case, the relevant Irish Embassy dealt with an Irish citizen who requested consular assistance on behalf of the person mentioned. As with every Irish citizen who contacts an Irish Embassy, my Department sought to deal with the matter professionally and sympathetically. However, as the person concerned is a citizen of a third country, travelling on a third country passport, our Embassy involved did not have standing to intervene with the local authorities or police on behalf of this person. The Embassy, nonetheless, endeavoured to provide all appropriate assistance to the Irish citizen acting on this person's behalf, and contacted the Embassy of the country of the passport which he used to enter the host country to alert them to the situation.
The question has since arisen as to whether the person concerned is eligible for Irish citizenship by virtue of naturalisation. Citizenship legislation and policy is a matter for the Department of Justice and Law Reform in accordance with the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956, as amended. My Department is not aware of the position of the person involved regarding any application he may have made for Irish citizenship.
All Irish citizens are entitled to hold an Irish passport, and to seek consular assistance from our Missions abroad by virtue of this. In general terms, when a person travels outside their country of citizenship, where consular assistance is required, it is provided by their country of citizenship. Where a person holds more than one passport, established international consular practice generally holds that the passport used to enter the host nation will dictate the State through which consular assistance can be sought.
Under international law there is no express obligation on countries to legally recognise dual-citizenship and this can have serious implications in the provision of consular assistance. Irish citizens with dual-citizenship travelling on the passport of their other citizenship and requiring consular assistance in the host nation are expected to approach the consular post representing the country of their other citizenship, i.e. the country of the passport used to enter the host country.
Although my Department remains ready and willing to assist all Irish citizens, regardless of any other citizenship held, in the host country, the degree to which Irish Missions can intervene in cases of dual citizenship may be limited where the individual has chosen not to travel on their Irish passport. The authorities in a number of countries will only recognise the citizenship of the passport used on entry. This is particularly the case when the individual has been arrested or charged with the commission of an offence.
I can assure the Deputy that my Department remains at the service of all Irish citizens to provide any consular assistance possible to them in situations of distress overseas.