Judge says woman has 'at least two identities'

Thu, May 17, 2012, 01:00

AN IRISH man and a woman who claims to be Somali but whose fingerprints are said to match those of a Tanzanian national have lost their High Court challenge to a refusal to issue them with marriage registration documents.

Mr Justice John Hedigan said it was now clear Lelia Ismail Tahir “has at least two identities”.

The judge yesterday dismissed the challenge by Ms Tahir, of Drishane Castle accommodation centre, Millstreet, Co Cork, and Raymond Paul Sheehan, Shandon Way, Shandon Street, Cork, to refusals by the registrar for Co Cork and an tArd Chláiritheoir to issue them with a marriage registration form.

The refusals were based on the respondents’ view Ms Tahir had not provided sufficient evidence of her claimed Somali identity.

Ms Tahir arrived here in June 2008 and applied for asylum, the judge noted. Some weeks after her appeal against the refusal of asylum was rejected, she and Mr Sheehan decided to marry.

They were given an appointment for late June 2010 to fulfil the necessary requirements to provide the required three-month notification of their intention to marry.

Their solicitors wrote to the registrar in late May 2010 stating Ms Tahir was a Somali national who was unable to obtain identity documents.

On being told evidence of identity was required under law, their solicitors replied there was difficult obtaining identity documents from Somalia.

The identity issue remained unresolved during several visits by the couple to the registrar’s office, After their third visit in August 2010, a detective from the Garda National Immigration Bureau informed the registrar he believed Ms Tahir was not from Somalia.

The registrar referred the file to an tArd Chláiritheoir who contacted the bureau and was advised there were serious questions about Ms Tahir’s identity.

The couple’s solicitors later said their clients had done all they could to substantiate their entitlement to marry one another and judicial review proceedings were issued in February 2011.

Dismissing their case, Mr Justice Hedigan said one of the main roles of registrars and an tArd Chláiritheoir under the Civil Registration Act 2004 is maintenance and control of the registration of marriages. Section 46.7 of that Act provided a registrar may require evidence of identity from those intending to marry.

The central issue was whether the respondents were entitled to consider the requirements of section 46.7 had not been met in this case, he said.

It was claimed the respondents failed to have regard to the fact Ms Tahir was unable to obtain a Somali birth certificate or passport as Somalia is “a failed state” and failed to have regard to evidence of identity provided via other documents such as an Irish driving licence.

In her grounding affidavit, Ms Tahir claimed to be a Somali national but failed to state asylum was refused because her fingerprints matched those of a Tanzanian national, the judge said.

Ms Tahir was informed in June 2009 by the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner her fingerprints matched those of a Tanzanian who was issued with a six-month visa for the UK in Dar Es Salaam in December 2006.