Northern Ireland

Co Donegal-born DUP peer Lord Hay being 'discriminated against' over attempts to get British passport

DUP peer Lord William Hay. File picture by Paul Faith, Press Association
DUP peer Lord William Hay. File picture by Paul Faith, Press Association

A DUP peer has said he is being "discriminated against" in attempts to get a British passport because he was born in Co Donegal.

Lord Hay, a former Stormont speaker, is a long-term resident in Northern Ireland but was born in Milford.

He said when he applied for a UK passport he was told he had to apply for British citizenship.

Lord Hay (70) was invited for an interview to prove his nationality but said he was not prepared to do so.

"I've been in Northern Ireland all my life," he said.

"Why should I be interviewed... (I) just refuse to do that. I mean it's wrong."

People born in the Republic have not been entitled to British citizenship or passports since 1949, when the Republic left the Commonwealth.

Lord Hay yesterday told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster, which is investigating citizenship, that he had a "right to a British passport".

"I see myself as a British citizen living in Northern Ireland all my life," he said.

"I have a right to British citizenship and a British passport. I am being discriminated against because I can't get my British passport.

"I count myself as British. At this moment in time, I need to hold an Irish passport to get to where I need to get to."

Lord Hay estimated that around 40,000 people living in the north were born in the Republic.

He said the passport situation "goes against the Belfast Agreement", adding that there should be "parity of esteem for people living in Northern Ireland who were born in the Republic of Ireland".

And he said it was "absolutely crazy" that Irish citizens in Northern Ireland who have never lived in the Republic could easily get Irish passports and he could not get a British passport.

The senior DUP politician highlighted cost as a barrier, saying the citizenship process meant that a British passport could cost £1,300, as opposed to €80 for an Irish passport.

The committee also heard from prominent citizenship campaigner Emma DeSouza.

Ms DeSouza took legal action in 2015 when an application for a residence card for her American husband was rejected.

The Home Office deemed her British even though she has always held an Irish passport and does not consider herself British.

She told the committee that it was not a "Good Friday Agreement" issue but a "Home Office policy issue".

She said those who regard themselves as Irish are being discriminated against, adding that the process of renouncing UK citizenship needs "to be addressed".

Ms DeSouza said being Irish is "the only identity I have ever had and it is the only passport I have ever had".