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Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014

Section 15: Registration as an Overseas Elector: Declaration of Nationality

80.Section 1 of the Representation of the People Act 1985 (the “1985 Act”) makes provision for the eligibility of persons resident outside the UK to vote at parliamentary elections in the UK (including in Northern Ireland). A person qualifies as an “overseas elector” if certain conditions are met. One of those conditions is that the person is a British citizen (section 1(1)(b)(ii)). Section 2 of the 1985 Act provides for the registration of overseas electors. As part of the registration process, section 2(3)(b) requires an overseas elector to make a declaration that he is a British citizen.

81.The 1998 Agreement recognises “the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose”. To ensure consistency with the terms of the 1998 Agreement, this section allows persons born in Northern Ireland to identify themselves as British citizens or Irish citizens or both when making a declaration under section 2 of the 1985 Act. Section 8 does not remove the requirement in section 1 of the 1985 Act that persons born in Northern Ireland must be British citizens in order to register as overseas electors.

82.Subsection (1) inserts subsections (3A), (9) and (10) into section 2 of the 1985 Act to provide for a possible alternative declaration for persons who are on the electoral register in Northern Ireland. Instead of declaring that they are British citizens, such persons can declare that they are “eligible Irish citizens”.

83.The definition of “eligible Irish citizen” does not encompass all Irish citizens. Instead, “eligible Irish citizen” denotes a person who is an Irish citizen under Irish law, who was born in Northern Ireland and who also qualifies as a British citizen under UK law. In general, under British nationality law, persons born in Northern Ireland before 31 December 1982 will qualify as British citizens, regardless of their parentage; persons born after that date will qualify as British citizens if they have at least one parent who was a British citizen or who was otherwise settled in the United Kingdom at the time of their birth. This results in a slightly broader range of persons being entitled to make a declaration than are covered by the 1998 Agreement.

84.Subsection (2) makes amendments to regulation 20 of the Representation of the People (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2008 (the “2008 Regulations”), which reflect the contents of the new alternative declaration available to persons born in Northern Ireland who are on the Northern Ireland electoral register. Eligible Irish citizens are required to provide equivalent evidence and information to that required of British citizens. There is no additional burden on those who declare themselves to be both British and Irish; such persons can make a choice about which information that they provide.

85.Subsection (3) makes similar amendments to the 2008 Regulations in respect of those who are required to attest overseas electors’ declarations. Such persons can also identify themselves as eligible Irish citizens (as defined in the amendment made by subsection (1)(b)) for the purpose of attesting an overseas declaration made by another individual, whether that individual declares himself to be British or Irish.

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