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Irish Citizenship

Irish Citizenship - Entitlement and Procedure 

An article by Hilda McGauley, published December 2008 issue Irish Roots Magazine


Under the terms of the Irish Constitution and successive pieces of legislation, an individual may become entitled to Irish citizenship by virtue of being born on the island of Ireland, through marriage to an Irish citizen or through the process of naturalisation. Crucially for the Irish diaspora however a process of citizenship by descent is also provided for. This process can allow for maintenance of citizenship through the generations of a family living abroad if certain conditions are fulfilled.

Where someone is born outside Ireland but to a parent who is at the time of the birth an Irish citizen they obtain an entitlement to Irish citizenship. However citizenship does not become effective from birth for everyone. The crucial factor is whether the individual’s parent was born in Ireland or acquired their citizenship in turn through an Irish-born parent. In the latter case (of an Irish born grandparent) citizenship does not become effective until the birth is registered in the Foreign Births Register (FBR) of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Successive generations of foreign-born Irish can maintain citizenship through registration in the FBR as each potential citizen, in registering their birth and making their citizenship effective, provide their own children with a similar entitlement. However the ‘link’ can be broken where registration of a citizen’s birth in the FBR takes place only after the birth of their own child. The child loses entitlement as its parent was not effectively a citizen at the time of the child’s birth (there can be exceptions to this rule for children born before 31 December 1986 when the legislation came into effect).


In the case of a family’s first registration in the FBR documentation is needed to prove entitlement. To be registered, the potential citizen claiming citizenship through a foreign-born Irish parent and an Irish born grandparent, needs to produce their own birth certificate and (if applicable) their marriage certificate. They then need to produce the birth certificates and (if applicable) marriage certificates of their citizen parent and grandparent and an identity document (such as a driving licence) for each. Where the parent or grandparent is deceased a death certificate is needed in place of an identity document.

Once a birth is registered in the FBR a Foreign Birth Registration Certificate (FBR Cert) is issued to the new Irish citizen. The registration procedure for children subsequently born to this citizen is simplified by the existence of the FBR Cert. Production of the FBR Cert and the birth certificate of the citizen’s child usually suffices to have this child’s birth registered and a further FBR Cert then issues.

To apply for a passport a citizen again needs to prove entitlement. For the citizen in receipt of an FBR Cert, applying for a passport involves submission of the cert together with their birth certificate. In the case of a foreign born citizen with an Irish born parent (who is not required to register with the FBR) the passport application will involve production of their birth certificate and (if applicable) marriage certificate and similar documentation for their Irish born parent (together with an identity document for their parent or a death certificate if their parent is deceased). An Irish passport enables the holder to live and work in Ireland and also affords the opportunity to do so in the other member states of the European Union without the need for a visa. It is therefore to be valued highly but not as highly as the honour of citizenship which can endure with the generations.

For further information on Irish citizenship and Irish passports see the website of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service at

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