Former MLA claims 'discrimination'
A DUP peer who was born in the Irish Republic has said he is unwilling to apply for British citizenship in order to qualify for a UK passport.
Lord Hay was born in Co Donegal in 1950 but has lived in Northern Ireland for the vast majority of his life.
Following the departure of the Republic from the Commonwealth of Nations in April 1949, people born in the south are no longer entitled to British citizenship or passports.
Lord Hay currently holds an Irish passport, but has been told that if wants a British passport he will have to undergo the naturalisation process.
The former Assembly Speaker has been highlighting his bid to secure a UK passport for a number of years. The DUP has campaigned on behalf of those in a similar position without success.
Lord Hay raised the issue before Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee yesterday. He told MPs he believed he had a right to British citizenship and a passport and felt he was being discriminated against.
The former Foyle MLA said he was invited for an interview to prove his nationality as part of the application process for a UK passport, but was unwilling to do so.
Lord Hay praised the Irish passport application process, saying it was "very simple" in comparison with its UK counterpart.
The DUP peer estimated there are around 40,000 people living in Northern Ireland who were born in the Republic, and said many would be put off applying for a UK passport due to the £1,300 cost of applying for citizenship.
"It affects thousands of people who have lived in Northern Ireland all their life - people who pay their taxes, national insurance, who are eligible to vote, all of that," he told BBC Radio Ulster.
"After that process they could then be looking for an interview to find out if you are really saying what you're saying and proving what you're proving and I just thought the whole process, the outlay of money and all of that was so huge," Lord Hay said.
He said the Good Friday Agreement guaranteed parity of esteem for both communities to hold both identities and British or Irish passports.
"It's an issue the Government need to face up to and deal with," Lord Hay said.