Dáil Éireann - Volume 481 - 16 October, 1997

Adjournment Debate. - Issue of Visas.

Mr. Durkan: This matter refers to circumstances surrounding the return to this country of a constituent of mine, born in Canada, who has lived here from the age of two years. She is married and has been living here at a permanent address for many years, she holidayed occasionally outside this State.

On her return here on 13 September last —when she and her husband arrived at Shannon Airport — when it was discovered she held a Canadian passport, which I understand she is entitled to hold in addition to an Irish one, she was informed that she had three months to get her documentation in order and was given a stay of three months or, alternatively, must leave the country.

I bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for the reason that I do not think it possible for our immigration authorities to know anybody and everybody entering our various ports; I fully accept that and the pressures under which they operate. Nonetheless, I wonder whether they have been given any special orders or terms of reference within which they must operate. I should have thought that a very simple investigation would have brought to the attention of all and sundry that this woman was as much entitled to be in this country as anyone else. If changes have been implemented, of which the public has not been made aware, they should be made aware at the earliest possible date to avoid the confusion, annoyance and upset caused in her case.

I compliment the Minister's office on the fact that one of his departmental officials contacted my office within the past couple of days, in dramatic contrast to the reply to my original parliamentary question of 1 October which did not elicit a reply of that nature and which led to my raising this matter on the Adjournment. That official was quite helpful, explaining in so far as he could the circumstances that arose and has probably contacted my constituent as a result. I hope by now my constituent has been contacted and that any misunderstanding has been ironed out.

Nonetheless, if changes have taken place in relation to the manner in which people of that category are dealt with on re-entering this State— I reiterate that this woman entered and reentered this country on countless occasions over the past 20 years — the public must be made aware of them so that others, such as my constituent, are not meted the same treatment.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I thank Deputy Durkan for raising this matter. Before he tabled his parliamentary question, now the subject matter of this Adjournment Debate, neither I nor the Department [1185] of Justice, Equality and Law Reform had any knowledge of it.

An official of the Immigration and Citizenship Division of the Department has contacted the person involved, explained the position fully and to her satisfaction and has offered to assist her in taking steps to avoid this difficulty in future.

The person in question, who appears to be a citizen of both Ireland and Canada, only has a Canadian passport. When making her recent journey she did not have time to gather all the documentation necessary to support her application for an Irish passport. This documentation would include her long form Canadian birth certificate as well as the birth certificates of one or both parents.

On her return from her trip to Canada, she presented her Canadian passport. The immigration officer had no option but to treat her as a Canadian citizen only in the absence of documentary evidence that she was also an Irish citizen. This difficulty will not arise again for her if she either obtains an Irish passport or adopts the course of action suggested to her by the Department official.