Minister may be unable to appeal controversial citizenship ruling

Sides seek adjournment for one week to consider whether to appeal judge’s ruling

Minister dismissed a citizenship application by Roderick Jones because he had been out of the State for 100 days in the year before he made his application.

Minister dismissed a citizenship application by Roderick Jones because he had been out of the State for 100 days in the year before he made his application.

 

A High Court judge has adjourned for a week the making of further orders arising from his significant and controversial decision that applicants for citizenship must have “unbroken” residence here for a year before they apply.

When the matter returned before Mr Justice Max Barrett on Thursday, he was told by David Leonard BL, for Roderick Jones, an Australian man who brought the case, and by Alex Caffrey BL, for the State, the sides wanted it put back for a week.

The adjournment was sought for reasons including consideration of whether to appeal the judge’s finding.

Mr Jones, having lost the case, is entitled to appeal but, because the State won the case, legal sources consider it is not entitled to seek an appeal.

In opposing Mr Jones’s challenge to the Minister for Justice’s refusal of his citizenship application, the State had not argued that the words “continuous residence” in section 15.1.c of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2015 means an applicant for citizenship must have unbroken residence in the State for a year.

Dismissed

The Minister in late 2018 dismissed the application by Mr Jones, who works in the university sector here, because he had been out of the State for 100 days – 97 days on holiday and three days for work reasons – in the year before he made his application.

In finding against Mr Jones, Mr Justice Barrett said the Minister’s discretionary practice of allowing applicants six weeks out of the country, for holiday or other reasons, and more time in exceptional circumstances, is not permitted by law.

He noted section 15.1 provides, on receipt of an application for a certificate of naturalisation, the Minister “may, in his absolute discretion, grant the application if satisfied that the applicant has had a period of one year’s continuous residence in the State immediately before the date of the application”.

The judge found section 15.1 allows the Minister no discretion in relation to the “continuous” residence requirement. He said, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Current English, “continuous” means “unbroken, uninterrupted, connected throughout in space or time”.

While disagreeing with how the Minister concluded Mr Jones is ineligible at this time for a certificate of naturalisation under section 15.1, the refusal conclusion was still correct, he found.

There was thus no point in granting Mr Jones the reliefs sought because of the court’s interpretation of the word “continuous” in section 15.1.

The judge said his decision “might seem unfair” in a world where many people travel abroad for work and take foreign breaks more than once a year but it is what the relevant law requires. The cure for any such unfairness “lies in the gift of the legislature”, he added.