Father’s crimes should not have denied child Irish citizenship

High Court judge overturns unsuccessful citizenship application by child, now aged eight

The child argued her “unblemished character” had not been taken into consideration.

The child argued her “unblemished character” had not been taken into consideration.

 

An eight-year-old girl born in Ireland has had her unsuccessful citizenship application overturned by the High Court which found the decision should not have been based on her father’s criminal history.

The decision has been welcomed by the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) who took the case on the girl’s behalf after her application, filed on her behalf by her father, was rejected.

“At the heart of this ruling is a recognition of a child’s right to be heard and independently assessed,” said Catherine Cosgrave, ICI managing solicitor.

“It is clearly ludicrous for any child to be denied citizenship based on the character of her father.”

The ruling, which can be appealed by the State, is likely to result in the Department of Justice having to reconsider her application.

The girl, who was aged seven at the time, sought an order quashing the decision as well as a ruling that such decisions should be made on the character of the minor in question and not their parent.

According to the ruling by Mr Justice David Keane in the High Court on Friday, the girl’s Eastern European mother had alleged she was treated violently by the father and she and her daughter were forced to take refuge in a shelter in the State. She later received a barring order.

In February, 2016, while his own citizenship application was in process, the girl’s father submitted one on his daughter’s behalf. In the paperwork, he acknowledged a criminal history including convictions for assault and public order offences.

Both applications were refused the following December but the child was granted leave to appeal the decision.

‘Bad character’

The legal arguments included the view that “by basing the decision on the father’s failure to satisfy the Minister (for Justice) of his own good character, the Minister acted in breach of the child’s entitlement to natural and constitutional justice and fair procedures and unlawfully discriminated against the child. Second, the Minister’s decision took account of an irrelevant consideration, namely the father’s bad character”.

The child argued her “unblemished character” had not been taken into consideration.

Mr Justice Keane found that a section of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 - governing citizenship or “certificate of naturalisation” applications - was ambiguous with regard to the applicant.

He said he believed the interpretation “more consistent with justice” is that “the applicant who must meet the conditions of naturalisation to the satisfaction of the Minister is the minor born in the State”. The decision by the Minister for Justice erred in law, he found, and he quashed it.

In response, the ICI said “justice has been delivered for this innocent child” and said the court had noted it was unable to find any example from any other country where the eligibility conditions of a child to apply for naturalisation would be predicated on the “good character” of the parent through whom the application was submitted.

“While, procedurally, applications can be made on behalf of a child by a parent, from a child rights perspective, the substantive citizenship decision must relate to their intrinsic personhood. This is a very welcome result,” Ms Cosgrave said.