>> 22 Sep 2004

Oh Shirty Maggie Mae

Just when you thought that Irish self-pity couldn't eat any further into the budget of the Northern Ireland Office, we have Dublin-born solicitor, Maggie O'Connor, determined to seek a judicial review on a decision not to consider her for a post in Ulster's new Public Prosecution Service, at Belfast's High Court.

Let me get this straight. O'Connor has been resident in Northern Ireland (and hence, the UK) for 25 years. He career has obviously been the prime beneficiary of British residency, yet she did not apply for British citizenship in all that time. She now seeks a review on the grounds that the odious Belfast Agreement conferred both an Irish and British birthright on the citizens of Northern Ireland according to individual choice.

Here's where I don my legal hat. O'Connor may hold an Irish passport and, thus, be an Irish citizen, but she is also a subject of the United Kingdom by virtue of residency. Identity is not the same as citizenship. Whilst the two are not mutually exclusive, neither are they mutually compatible. For example, a resident of Northern Ireland could still refer to himself as 'Irish', and hold a British passport. He would, therefore, be Irish by nationality but British by location and in terms of citizenship. 'Nationality' might be used adjectively in both UK law and Irish law, but it has no legal effect in either state. Accordingly, there is no automatic birthright (in law) to Irish citizenship afforded to northern nationalists. This point is further reinforced by the successful referendum campaign on citizenship held in the Republic in late Spring.

O'Connor is British by location but Irish by virtue of citizenship and identity. Thus, her entitlement to qualify for the said public service post in the British civil service is null and void. A governmental agreement, enshrined in a European directive, enables governments to recruit for certain civil service posts on the grounds of citizenship alone. This agreement has far more legal gravitas than the codswallop on 'identity' contained in the pages of the Agreement. If O'Connor wants to apply for a post in the British civil service - in a constituent part of the United Kingdom - she should swap her green passport for a red one, forthwith.


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