Father of five Irish citizen children wins appeal over refusal of citizenship

Finding had been made by Minister for Justice on basis he was ‘not of good character’

The Minister must now reconsider the matter in line with the High Court’s findings.

The Minister must now reconsider the matter in line with the High Court’s findings.

 

An Angolan man who has five Irish citizen children has won his appeal over been refused Irish citizenship by the Minister for Justice on the basis of a finding he was “not of good character”.

On Monday, a three judge Court of Appeal granted the man’s appeal over the High Court’s rejection of his challenge to the Minister’s refusal.

The Minister must now reconsider the matter in line with the court’s findings.

The character finding breached natural and constitutional justice because it was based on an alleged domestic dispute and the man’s conviction for two road traffic offences without the Minister having considered exculpatory submissions from the man and contextual factors, Ms Justice Ann Power concluded in the court’s judgment.

The man, whose file referred to a traumatic past involving torture and imprisonment, failed to get asylum after coming here in 2003 but he got leave to remain on humanitarian grounds.

He is separated from his former wife with whom he has five children. Three were born here and all are Irish citizens.

When he applied for naturalisation in October 2013, he disclosed two convictions for road traffic offences committed in late 2012 - failure to display an insurance disc and a tax disc.

The man said, for reasons including an acrimonious break up with his wife whom he alleged had hidden fixed charge notices, he was unaware of those notices or being summoned to appear in court but paid the relevant fines immediately on learning of them.

The judge said the Minister sought further information from the Garda and received an updated report, dated January 2016, which referred to an incident in May 2013 when gardaí attended at the home the man shared with his then wife. The incident referred to section 12 of the Child Care Act being invoked, stated the father assaulted the mother, causing her injuries and she had disclosed to gardaí the children were not safe with their father.

The Minister asked the man for details and he explained, inter alia, the incident was to be seen in the context of an acrimonious break-up of his marriage. He alleged his ex wife sought to incriminate him by making serious allegations which would lead to his being separated from his children and, when he was out of the country, a barring order was secured on her behalf.

On his return, he took proceedings and got access to his children. He denied any issue of concern in relation to being with them and no case was pursued against him arising from the allegations.

The man also said, after a period on disability allowance, he has worked part time since 2014, is a regular churchgoer and is fully integrated into Irish society with his strongest connection being his children.

Ms Justice Power said there was no evidence the Minister had any regard to any exculpatory factors related to the alleged incident of May 2013, including that no childcare proceedings were pursued arising from it; the ex wife had withdrawn her allegations and he had secured a protection order against her.

The updated Garda report was “infirm” because it contains a blanket disclosure of allegations arising from a domestic incident without putting that incident, and the subsequent strike out order, in their “proper context”.

The Minister was obliged to put certain matters to the man for his comments and to show such comments were considered and weighed in the balance before reaching a decision adverse to him, she said.

The problem for the court is that it does not know what view the Minister took of the alleged incident but it was evident the Minister took some view as otherwise there would have been no need to refer to the nature of the alleged incident when coming to his decision on the man’s character.

There was no basis for the High Court finding the Minister did not consider the alleged incident as more than alleged, she concluded. There was “a want of fairness and proportionality” in the decision making process.