Court says State action in passport case 'dispiriting'
A Supreme Court judge has descibed as "dispiriting" the way in which the State conducted legal action at public expense unsuccessfully trying to defend the "wrong-headed" refusal of an Irish passport and citizenship to a child born here to Nigerian parents.
The refusal was based on an "extraordinary form of group-think" in the public service resulting in the Department of Justice ignoring its own "obvious acknowledgement" the four-year-old boy's father was given permission by the Minister to remain here on a date which entitled the child to citizenship, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said.
"I simply do not understand why so great an effort has been made over so long a period to deprive a small boy of citizenship in the country where he has been permitted reside all his life, a citizenship enjoyed by his father and his sister. If there is a point to the pain and anxiety caused to the child's family, the expense to which they have been put and the taxpayers money which has been spent, it entirely eludes me."
The child's application was refused "on grounds so threadbare" and on foot of a administrative decision "not merely wrong but wrong headed" and "flying in the face of the ordinary meaning of words and numbers, especially dates", he said. The decision "was justified by a bewildering display of unembarrassed casuistry", he added.
In his separate judgment, Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell said some arguments advanced to justify the Minister's decision would, if correct, create "an entirely undesirable state of confusion".
Arguments in the High Court justifying the Minister's refusal had led to "some strange conclusions", he said. In the Supreme Court, counsel for the Minister was then "forced to argue the word permission had two different meanings, not only in the same section of the relevant law, but in the same sentence".
The substantial costs of the High and Supreme Court cases were awarded against the Minister for Justice by the five judge court today after it unanimously dismissed his appeal against the High Court judgment overturning his refusal.
The appeal arose from the Minister's decision in October 2009 refusing a certificate of Irish nationality to Faisol Oulwanifemi Sulaimon, born here on August 24th 2008 to a Nigerian couple. In October 2008, when the child was three months old, the Department of Foreign Affairs refused him an Irish passport on foot of what the courts found was a mistaken view of the law, the same view later argued by the Department of Justice.
The child lives with his father, since estranged from the child's mother, in Tyrellstown, Dublin. His entitlement to Irish citizenship depended whether his father was lawfully resident here - resident with the permission of the Minister for Justice - for three of the four years immediately before his birth.