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Irish nationality law is contained in the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956 to 2004 and in the relevant provisions of the Irish Constitution.A person may be an Irish citizen through birth, descent, marriage to an Irish citizen or through naturalisation.was to confer, in the eyes of Irish law, citizenship on the vast majority of the Northern Ireland population".The compatibility of this innovation with international law, according to Ó Caoindealbháin was dubious, "given its attempt to regulate the citizenship of an external territory ...The status of the Irish Free State as a dominion within the British Commonwealth was seen by the British authorities as meaning that a "citizen of the Irish Free State" was merely a member of the wider category of "British subject"; this interpretation could be supported by the wording of Article 3 of the Constitution, which stated that the privileges and obligations of Irish citizenship applied "within the limits of the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State".However, the Irish authorities repeatedly rejected the idea that its citizens had the additional status of "British subject".The Act therefore provided for Irish citizenship for anyone born in the island of Ireland whether before or after independence.The only limitations to which were that anyone born in Northern Ireland was not automatically an Irish citizen but entitled to be an Irish citizen and, that a child of someone entitled to diplomatic immunity in the state would not become an Irish citizen.

The treatment of Northern Ireland residents in these sections had considerable significance for the state’s territorial boundaries, given that their "sensational effect …As such it was a temporary provision which required the enactment of a fully-fledged citizenship law which was done by the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1935.This Act provided for, among other things: The provision of citizenship by descent had the effect, given the interpretation noted above, of providing citizenship for those in Northern Ireland born after 6 December 1922 so long as their father had been resident anywhere in Ireland on said date.The Act also provided for the establishment of the Foreign Births Register.Further, the 1935 Act was an attempt to assert the sovereignty of the Free State and the distinct nature of Irish citizenship, and to end the ambiguity over the relations between Irish citizenship and British subject status.

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