A teenage girl who has lived in Ireland with her eastern European parents since 2012, and whose five year old sister was born here, has won her appeal against the Minister for Justice's refusal of her application for citizenship.
The Minister must now reconsider Adriana Borta’s application in line with the Court of Appeal’s finding he gave inadequate reasons for his decision that her Irish associations were “not sufficiently strong” to warrant naturalisation.
The Minister was obliged to “clarify with precision” the reason for his refusal, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said.
Through her mother Nadejda Borta, Ms Borta, now aged 16, appealed over the High Court's dismissal of her challenge to the Minister's refusal.
Ms Borta’s parents were Moldovan citizens by birth but her mother later became a naturalised Romanian citizen. The family have lived here since August 2012, when Adriana was aged nine, and her mother gave birth to her younger sister in October 2014.
Her mother applied for citizenship for Adriana in 2016 on the basis of being the sister of an Irish citizen child, being in full-time education in Ireland and having lived here at the time of application for four and a half years.
The Minister refused to grant a certificate of naturalisation under Section 16 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.
While acknowledging Adriana is a person with “Irish associations” as the term is defined under section 16.2, the Minister did not consider those associations sufficiently strong to warrant exercising in her favour his absolute discretion to grant naturalisation.
Giving the Court of Appeal judgment on Monday allowing her appeal, Ms Justice Donnelly, sitting with Mr Justice Brian McGovern and Ms Isobel Kennedy, noted Section 16.2 provides a person is of Irish association if they are "related by blood, affinity or adoption to, or is a civil partner of, a person who is an Irish citizen or entitled to be an Irish citizen".
Section 16 gives the Minister a discretion whether or not to grant citizenship even when the particular condition concerning being of “Irish association” is met, she said. She rejected arguments on behalf of Ms Borta that, when that condition is met, the Minister is effectively prohibited from considering whether to grant naturalisation.
However, in exercising his discretion against Ms Borta, the Minister failed to give adequate reasons for doing so, she held.
The Minister’s “terse” decision had not identified which factors had gone towards the strength of the Irish association.
The decision did not indicate why the strength of her association with her sister was not sufficient for consideration of naturalisation, the judge said.
Because such association was sufficient to enable the Minister to exercise his discretion to grant naturalisation, it was “incumbent” on the Minister to explain why the strength of her association was insufficient to grant the certificate.
Ms Borta was entitled to know that so she could address the reasons in any further application for naturalisation. If the refusal was because she had only one relative who was an Irish citizen, and the Minister deemed this inadequate , she would then know any future application would be “a waste of time”.
However, if the reason was that she needed a longer period of Irish association, the passage of time might raise an expectation of naturalisation in the future, the judge added.
A “clear” statement of reasons would allow Ms Borta an opportunity to challenge them if she believed there were good grounds for that. Requiring such reasons did not amount to fettering the Minister’s discretion in the matter, the judge added.