The Dáil debates regarding the Diplomatic Relations (Misc) Bill 2017 have reached their second stage of talks. The Bill purports to amend the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967, as well as to enhance the clarity of various arrangements with respect to the staff of diplomatic missions and international organisations.

If introduced (which seems likely), one of the main developments of the Act will be the explicit exclusion of staff who work at diplomatic missions, such as embassies, from entitlements to citizenship. Normally, residents in the State who have lived here for five of the last nine years, or who are married to an Irish citizen for three years may apply for naturalisation. The reasoning, however, behind this new provision is that staff of these missions are excluded from mainstream immigration controls, and often don’t pay tax in Ireland.

Part 3 Sections 9 and 10 of the Bill may be of particular interest to our clients, as they exclude family members of, and children born to the staff of these missions from being able to acquire Irish citizenship. This includes the families of domestic workers.

This provision comes after the 2016 judgment in the Rodis and Tolentino case, in which the High Court held that two members of staff of diplomatic missions were entitled to have their residence in the State as eligible for the purposes of naturalisation.

Our own offices currently represent staff of diplomatic missions, many of whom are in an unfortunate limbo between not having many of the benefits afforded to diplomats,  yet also not being treated as Irish residents.

TDs in the Dáil debates have argued against the provisions of Sections 9 and 10, with Deputy Seán Crowe of Sinn Féin saying “The section seeks to amend the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 to provide that any period of time spent in the State while exempt from immigration controls, as workers in embassies are, is not reckonable for residency in the context of naturalisation. I believe that this is an important right that should not be undermined or interfered with in any way. I am also concerned that the section states that children born to diplomats and associated persons who are exempt from immigration controls do not, except in certain circumstances, qualify for Irish citizenship by birth.”

For those who may be in this situation, we would advise that if you wish to apply for naturalisation, the sooner you do so the better, as once the Bill passes through the Dáil and becomes an Act, your entitlements to naturalisation may be withdrawn. Deputy Charles Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs clarified “that the amendment will apply prospectively only and will not prejudice any period of residence that would have been deemed reckonable for naturalisation purposes prior to the passing of the present Act.”

The Bill does also have some positive aspects to it for staff of diplomatic missions. It will further clarify and emphasise the need for embassies to pay their staff the minimum wage, and to engage in workplace inspections. Families of staff will also be exempt from immigration controls, thus honouring the staff’s right to family life whilst working in Ireland.

If this Bill affects you, or if you have any questions regarding its provisions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.