Former Stormont speaker Lord Hay could finally get British citizenship under new DUP Bill

UK passport stock image -Credit:Getty Images
UK passport stock image -Credit:Getty Images

A former Stormont speaker and DUP Mayor who now sits in the House of Lords will finally be entitled to British citizenship if a Private Members Bill put forward by party leader Gavin Robinson becomes law.

William Hay, a former DUP MLA for Foyle who became Lord Hay of Ballyore in 2014, is not entitled to British citizenship or a British passport because he was born across the border in Co Donegal.

A Private Members Bill proposed by DUP leader Gavin Robinson would extend British citizenship to Lord Hay and others like him who were born in the Republic of Ireland - without the requirements of a 'Life in the UK' citizenship test or the naturalisation fee of £1,580 asked of immigrants to the UK who seek to become British citizens.

Read more: Sunak refusal to apologise for 'torture and murder' by Stakeknife 'indefensible', says Colum Eastwood

Read more: City streets within Derry Walls set for £5 million makeover

Mr Robinson said the Bill would provide "the final piece in the identity jigsaw" in Northern Ireland, following the changes made in the Belfast Agreement.

“The Belfast Agreement sought to address issues of identity," Mr Robinson explained.

"People living in Northern Ireland were able to avail of an Irish passport, my Bill if translated into law will provide the final piece in the identity jigsaw by enabling Irish citizens to avail of British citizenship without the naturalisation process.

"The DUP’s Lord Hay of Ballyore was born in Donegal yet has lived for the overwhelming majority of his life in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. He served on his local council from 1981. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 and served as the Speaker of the Assembly from 2007 to 2014.

Willie Hay at Stormont in 2015
Willie Hay at Stormont in 2015 -Credit:PA

"That year, he was elevated to the House of Lords and to this day, remains a Peer of this Realm and legislator in our Parliament. Yet he isn’t a British Citizen. "

He continued: "Anyone in that position, serving practically, materially and productively should not be expected to pay a naturalisation fee of £1,580 and complete a ‘Life in the UK’ citizenship test. The notion that they should have to do so is offensive, contrary to the spirit of reciprocation offered through the Belfast Agreement in 1998, blind to our history and ignorant of the legal reality."

He added: "We also know from the 2021 Census figures that there are some 40,400 people living in Northern Ireland who were born in the Republic of Ireland. Furthermore, we know that circa 32,000 of them were born after 1948 and therefore could avail of this Bill.

"My colleague Gregory Campbell has laid much of the groundwork for this bill over the last two decades. It was a testament to his work that this morning my Bill was able to secure cross party support and will continue its journey through the Parliamentary processes.”

For all the latest news, visit the Belfast Live homepage here and sign up to our daily newsletter here.