Judges dismiss Minister's appeal in passport case
Sulaimon v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law ReformNeutral citation: 2012 (IESC) 63
Judgments were given by Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman and Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell on December 12th, 2012.
The five-judge court unanimously dismissed the Minister for Justice’s appeal against the High Court judgment overturning his refusal to issue a certificate of nationality. The High Court had quashed the Minister’s decision of October 5th, 2009, to refuse to issue a certificate of nationality to Faisol Sulaimon.
Faisol Oluwanifemi Sulaimon was born in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, on August 24th, 2008, to Nigerian parents. In October of that year, his father applied to the Department of Foreign Affairs for an Irish passport for his infant son.
The department refused his application for a passport on the grounds that the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act was not satisfied. Under the Act, citizenship entitlement depends on whether a parent (the boy’s father in this instance) was lawfully resident in Ireland for a total of three of the four years immediately preceding the birth. The department maintained that the father was three days short of this three-year rule.
Under the relevant law, the father had to be lawfully resident for 1,095 days but the Department of Justice and Department of Foreign Affairs calculated he was lawfully resident for 1,092 days.
The departments maintained the date of lawful residency began, not when the boy’s father got a letter saying the Minister had granted him permission, but when the father’s passport was stamped by an immigration officer and he was registered under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act.
The father claimed he was lawfully resident from at least July 7th, 2005, the date of a letter to him from the Department of Justice stating the Minister had granted him permission to remain in the State “for two years until 07/07/07”.
In 2007, the father secured further permission to remain up to August 2008 which it was argued brought him over the 1,095 days. The Minister however argued that the father was lawfully resident in the country from July 22nd, 2005, the date July 22nd was chosen because that was the date the father was registered in accordance with Section 4 of the Act, and his passport stamped.
The High Court found, by way of judicial review, that the boy was entitled to a certificate of nationality on the grounds of his father’s lawful residence in the state for the relevant period. The Minister of Justice appealed the decision.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman noted the child’s application for a passport was refused “on grounds so threadbare” and on foot of an administrative decision “not merely being wrong but as flying in the face of the ordinary meaning of words and numbers, especially dates”.