Willie Hay describes notion of Life in the UK test for citizenship for Irish unionists as 'ridiculous' as British Passport campaign continues
Willie Hay has described the notion of Irish unionists having to take a Life in the UK test to apply for British citizenship as 'ridiculous.'
"I don't really see the rationale for it to be honest. I didn't take it, I have to say, because I didn't feel I had to take it.
"I'm 71 years of age. I've lived in Northern Ireland all of my life practically. I've paid taxes, National Insurance, all of that. I'm a member of the House of Lords, all of that, and I don't think I should have to take a test to see whether I and my British citizenship stands up. I think it's ridiculous," he said.
The DUP grandee, who takes the title Lord Hay of Ballyore, in the British House of Lords made the remarks during an evidence session for the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Citizenship and Passport Processes in Northern Ireland Inquiry on Wednesday.
The former Mayor of Derry was born in Milford in Donegal in 1950 and as such is not automatically entitled to a British Passport.
He has consistently complained that Irish unionists born before the Irish Free State’s departure from the British Commonwealth in 1949 are entitled to UK passports but that those born after that date - like him - are not.
"It discriminates against those people who are living in Northern Ireland, who have been living in Northern Ireland for many, many years, and find that when they go to apply for British citizenship they have so many hurdles to go through that it is nigh impossible and then they look at the cost," he told the committee.
He said the Home Office fee for undergoing the citizenship process is around £1,300 but can cost much more and that to charge people who regard themselves as British and have lived in the north for most of their lives is 'very insensitive.'
"It's a high cost to try to get to where you need to get to try and achieve a British passport and I have every right. It should be my right to British citizenship, part of this United Kingdom and to hold a British passport. I should not, or anybody else, go through the hurdles that people have to go through to get where the need to get to to get a British passport.
"It goes against the very grain of the Belfast Agreement which recognises the birthright of all of the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British or both."
The veteran Derry unionist who holds an Irish passport and has done for many years said the passport regime in the 26 counties is much simpler and less complicated.
He said he had spent 65 years of his life in Derry.
His long-standing constituency colleague Gregory Campbell asked him if he regarded himself as a British citizen to which he replied, 'very, very much so.'
Mr. Campbell said: "There are approximately 10,000 British passports issued every year in the Dublin office from the British Government. So there are British passports allocated to people who live in and around the Dublin area who regard themselves as British even through they live in the Irish Republic."
"That does surprise me now. I didn't have that figure. It does surprise me," replied the erstwhile Stormont speaker