DeSouzas receive donations of over £25,000 towards legal costs

Public ‘remind us we’re not in this alone’, says Derry woman who took on Home Office

Members of the public have donated more than £25,000 since last Friday to cover the legal bill faced by campaigner Emma DeSouza.

Ms DeSouza, from Magherafelt, Co Derry, and her US-born husband, Jake, fought a lengthy legal battle to allow him to stay in Northern Ireland without compromising her right to identify as an Irish citizen.

The UK Home Office had rejected the couple’s application on the basis that Ms DeSouza was British, and requested that she either apply for residency for her husband as a British citizen or renounce her British citizenship and apply as an Irish citizen.

Their case had been listed for the Court of Appeal in June, but did not proceed after the Home Office conceded and changed its rules so that everyone born in Northern Ireland would now be regarded as an EU citizen for immigration purposes.

However, because the case did not go to court, the DeSouzas could not apply to have their costs covered, and on Friday received a bill for £45,935. This is in addition to about £36,000 – paid for from through their own savings and crowdfunding – that they had already spent fighting the case in the lower courts.

They must still raise about another £25,000.

Ms DeSouza said the public’s response was overwhelming.

“I manage a coffee shop, and Jake lost his job as a musician because of Covid ... although he got another job as a customer service agent,” she said. “We’re just ordinary working people that have pretty low salaries so to get a bill of this size, it’s just unimaginable to us,” she said. “It would take three years’ of our salaries just to pay this one bill.”

Small donations

More than 1,700 people have donated money to the DeSouzas’ campaign in the two years since they launched their crowdfunding page. Of the £25,000 donated since they raised their target to cover the additional bill on Friday, much of the money raised has come from small donations of £20 or less.

“It’s just been a complete rollercoaster of emotion,” said Ms De Souza. “We’ve had such an outpouring of support from the public, and the messages we’ve received have been so reaffirming.

“They remind us that we’re not in this alone, and we never were in it alone, because the case we took forward was for everyone in Northern Ireland and it feels very much like that’s been recognised by a lot of people.”

She also said it raised the question as to why it was “falling to people like us, normal citizens, to have to come together to cover the cost of this case, a case that should never have been taken to court in the first place?”

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher has written to Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath suggesting the Government "should make a contribution towards her legal costs as a gesture of goodwill and thanks".