Super-Citizens: Defining the 'Good Character' Requirement for Citizenship Acquisition by Naturalisation

Date01 January 2018
Super-Citizens: Dening the ‘Good Character’
Requirement for Citizenship Acquisition by
But we should expect a theory of the good citizen to be relatively independent of
the legal question of what it is to be a citizen, just as a theory of the good person
is distinct om the metaphysical (or legal) question of what it is to be a person.1
Acculturation can oen be a deeply unsettling psychological task that second
generation immigrants must undertake to be whole in the perception of oneself
in one’s place in one’s new society.2 It is widely recognised that the concept
of ‘integration’ is dicult to dene, but it is generally accepted that it usually
involves the social cohesion or inclusion of newcomers into society. In reality, true
integration is only recognised once newcomers can display cultural traits, and better
still, a passport attesting their integration.3 One must be careful, however, for one
risks being under-integrated, whereby one is perpetually perceived as a foreigner,
and with it comes its own socio-political, and in the extremes, racial, xenophobic,
and discriminatory consequences.4 Extreme caution is advised, for the immigrant
also risks being over-integrated, which the owners of the adopted culture might
perceive as threatening to their society.5 One’s self-assertion to an adopted culture
can face backlash, because no matter how Irish the immigrant perceives oneself
to be, one may never be truly Irish enough. For example, one is labelled a ‘plastic
Paddy’.6 Yet the naturalisation requirements of becoming an Irish citizen suggest
* B.A., LL.B., LL.M., Ph.D. Candidate at University College Dublin. e author thanks Siobhán
Power and Aoife Mac Ardle for their editorial comments on previous dras of this article.
1 Will Kymlicka and Wayne Norman, ‘Return of the Citizen: A Survey of Recent Work on Citizenship
eory’ (1994) 104 Ethics 352, 353.
2 ao N Le and Gary Stockdale, ‘Acculturative Dissonance, Ethnic Identity, and Youth Violence’
(2008) 14 Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 1.
3 On integration and the law, see generally, Cliodhna Murphy, Immigration, Integration and the Law
in Ireland (Ashgate 2013).
4 Lucy Michael, Aophobia in Ireland: Racism against People of Aican Descent (Enar Ireland 2015)
5 Increasing numbers of European Union Member States, like Britain, are implementing citizenship
tests as part of their naturalisation policies for fear of perceived loss or damage to their national
identity. Mireille Paquet, ‘Beyond Appearances: Citizenship Tests in Canada and the UK’ (2012)
13 Journal of International Migration and Integration 243; Christian Joppke, ‘e Inevitable
Lightening of Citizenship’ (2010) 51 European Journal of Sociology 9.
6 e term originally referred to second generation Irish citizens who emigrated to London during
the 1980s. Having grown up in an English society, but self-identifying as Irish, they were referred
74  
that the immigrant must act ‘more Irish than the Irish themselves’, not in terms of
what it means to be an Irish person, as anthropologists, historians, sociologists and
political scientists might understand. Rather, what it means to be an Irish citizen, in
terms of formal (legal) citizenship.
is article proposes this statement to be true. e immigrant (hereinaer
‘the naturalisation applicant’) must become a ‘super-citizen’ – not in terms of
a superior being to other Irish citizens, but quite the opposite. Naturalisation
applicants qualify to become naturalised Irish citizens only by completing certain
prerequisites from which other Irish citizens7 are exempt. e naturalisation
applicant must, in terms of meeting conceptual ideals of what a citizen ought to be,
demonstrate their status as a perfect citizen; facing an eective requirement to act
and behave in a manner superior to that of what is expected of their ‘Irish-citizen
peers. In particular, this article aims to, for the rst time in Irish legal literature,
describe and analyse the good character condition. e article starts by putting the
process of naturalisation into the context of how Irish citizenship is acquired. It
then moves to look at the requirements for naturalisation applicants and analyses
how the good character condition is determined by decision makers and dened
by the Irish courts. From analysing the good character condition, it becomes clear
that naturalised citizens are expected not simply to be of good character, but to be
a ‘super-citizen’; with the demands placed upon them far exceeding that of their
‘ordinary’ peers.
e Acquisition of Citizenship
At the end of a naturalisation application, successful applicants are asked to
attend a citizenship ceremony, where they are celebrated for having completed
the prerequisites and are formally welcomed into society. is ceremony can be
exciting, and naturalising applicants may also feel ‘super’ in this way. Aer all,
other Irish citizens are not celebrated for acquiring their citizenship. However, the
excitement of becoming ‘super’ is short-lived, as naturalisation applicants quickly
realises that their newly acquired powers are not unique, but equal. A naturalisation
applicant stands to obtain rights equal to those of Irish citizens, but at a cost of
greater responsibilities. As noted by Carrera:
to as a ‘Plastic Paddy’ – fake versions of a true Irish person. Modern denitions refer to the ‘Plastic
Paddy’ as a non-Irish national, who knows little about actual Irish history and culture but claim to
be ‘Irish’. John Nagle, Multiculturalism’s Double-Bind: Creating Inclusivity, Cosmopolitanism and
Dierence (Routledge 2016) 162–163; Ruth Cullen, e Little Green Book of Blarney (Peter Pauper
Press 2008) 37.
7 ese ‘other Irish citizens’, for the purposes of this article, are those who obtain their Irish citizenship
by any means other than naturalisation, i.e. by birth to Irish parents or grandparents, and following
the 2004 citizenship referendum, those who are born in Ireland to at least one Irish parent.

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