Emma DeSouza and human rights body criticise DUP over citizenship stance

Human rights campaigner describes Arlene Foster’s interpretation of Belfast Agreement as ‘bizarre’

DUP leader Arlene Foster: “People are using the Belfast Agreement for all sorts of spurious reasons.” Photograph: Reuters

DUP leader Arlene Foster: “People are using the Belfast Agreement for all sorts of spurious reasons.” Photograph: Reuters

 

The DUP’s interpretation of Belfast Agreement citizenship provisions is “bizarre” human rights body the Committee on the Administration of Justice, has said. .

Emma DeSouza, the Derry woman going through a court battle to be accepted as only an Irish citizen in the face of the Home Office asking her to renounce British citizenship, also yesterday criticised the DUP’s position on citizenship. “Arlene Foster has essentially said yes people from NI are British,” Ms DeSouza told The Irish Times.

“That is not what the Good Friday agreement is about. I have the right to be accepted as Irish.

“A British citizen can be accepted as British only. It is outrageous that I would not be accepted as Irish only.”

Ms DeSouza wants, as an Irish citizen, to exercise a European Union provision under freedom of movement law to bring American-born husband, Jake, to live with her in Derry.

British citizens

The Home Office would require her to go through its complex procedure for British citizens approving third-country family reunions . To avoid this she can use her Irish citizenship, she can renounce British citizenship, which she says does not apply to her. She tweeted “According to the DUP we’re British”.

Ms DeSouza, who is organising a ‘We are Irish Too’ rally in Belfast tomorrow referenced recent comments by DUP MEP Diane Dodds that “most people born in Northern Ireland are entitled automatically to Irish citizenship, but this is in addition to, and not instead of, British citizenship”. Ms DeSouza described this as an “interesting interpretation”.

Asked about Ms DeSouza’s comments, Ms Foster said: “In relation to citizenship it [Belfast Agreement] does say British and Irish so you can choose which you would prefer to be and I think that is perfectly right,” she said.

“If people want to choose to have an Irish passport they can do so.

‘British passport’

“I have a British passport. I am very proud to be British and I will continue to be British, because that is who I am, and I don’t think there is any sort of conflict between those two positions.

“People are using the Belfast Agreement for all sorts of spurious reasons.

Northern Ireland constitutionally is part of the United Kingdom and therefore we are British citizens, and that is who we are and that is what we will continue to be.”

Human rights campaigner Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice, described this interpretation of the agreement as “bizarre”.

“The citizenship provisions are not limited to ‘identity’, but provide a duty on the UK and Ireland that NI-born persons must be “accepted as Irish or British or both as they may so choose.”