A Tipperary man is devastated to find he has been denied an Irish passport.
Tom Smith, from Thomastown, Tipperary was born in the U.K. but was brought home to Ireland when he was just one year old.
He went to school and university in Ireland, he speaks Irish, and his family live in Ireland; but he is now being told he cannot become an Irish citizen.
Speaking to Beat, Tom says;
"I learned to speak in Ireland, learned to walk in Ireland, my mother has been there for 32 years, my sisters were born in Ireland and have Irish passports. That’s my family home,"
Tom was permitted to apply for naturalisation when he turned 18 years old, but the cost of the process impeded him.
"You can't apply for naturalization until your 18. I had this short window to find over €1000 of spare cash and I just didn’t have that, nobody in my family would have that lying around. I was always in debt, I had student loans, so I couldn’t have applied as I didn’t have the financial means to. As soon as I had a decent job I applied ,but they rejected me."
After completing his Masters in UCC, Tom left Ireland for further study and employment, and now resides in the Czech Republic with his wife. Although he knows he can travel to Ireland with a U.K passport, an Irish passport is worth more to him than a bureaucratic tool.
"Ireland and UK have Common Travel Area, but to me that’s not relevant. If I want assistance form my country I have to go to UK, which is a country I've never lived in and have zero connection to. With Brexit, we don’t know what will come down the line, will I have connections to my family home? The initial emotion I had was disbelief, and horror, and I felt really trapped. It's like you're condemned to a life of not being recognized by your own state."
According to Tom, the Department of Justice rejected his application for an Irish passport on the grounds his associations with Ireland were not strong enough, and he was not currently resident in Ireland. But this approach is very frustrating to Tom, particularly when the Irish government issues passports to persons who have never set foot on Irish soil.
"Ireland hands out passports to people who have never set foot in the country," Tom says.
"Close friends of mine have done it, they’ve grown up in UK , they're English,they identify as English, they have one grandparent form Ireland, they’ve never been to Ireland and they end up with an Irish passport and I don't. For me, to watch them easily get an Irish passport, and I spent my whole life there and don’t get one?-its madness"
Tom would like to see changes made to the naturalisation process to allow for more equality and opportunity for appeals. "There's a major financial barrier to it, a lot of people get into debt just applying for something they have the right to apply for," says Tom."There's no appeal either.There's no transparency and no appeal. You feel trapped and you feel like an utter injustice has been done to you and there's nothing you can do about it."
You can hear the full interview with Tom on the Sunday Grill with Orla Rapple this weekend from 10am.