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REVOCATION OF IRISH CITIZENSHIP – IRISH SUPREME COURT DECLARES SECTIONS OF THE IRISH NATIONALITY AND CITIZENSHIP ACT ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL FOLLOWING JUDGEMENT IN DAMACHE V MINISTER FOR JUSTICE

On 14th October 2020, the Supreme Court found that the system in place for the revocation of Irish citizenship by way of naturalisation, as set out in section 19 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, was unconstitutional.

Under the provisions of Section 19 the Minister for Justice is required to notify a person that she intends to revoke their certificate of naturalisation. The affected person can then apply for an inquiry as to the reasons for revocation, and this application is referred to an independent committee of inquiry appointed by the Minister.

The Supreme Court held that this process does not meet the high standards of natural justice applicable to a person facing the severe consequence of losing their Irish citizenship. Central to this decision was the fact that the Minister for Justice is not bound by the findings of the independent committee, and that there is no right of appeal from the Minister’s decision.

Ultimately, the revocation process under Section 19 resulted in a situation where the same person who initiated the revocation process (the Minister), and whose representatives make the case for revocation before the committee, also makes the final decision to revoke.

The Supreme Court therefore found that Section 19 of the 1956 Act was unconstitutional. However, it deferred making its final orders until it had heard further submissions from the parties and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, who acted as amicus curiae in the proceedings, as to whether any aspects of Section 19 should be upheld, or whether Section 19 should be struck down in its entirety.

The Supreme Court heard these additional submissions on 21st January 2021.

On Wednesday 10th February 2021, the Court granted declarations that Sections 19(2) and 19(3) be struck down in their entirety but found that it was not necessary to strike down section 19(1), which contains the ministerial power to revoke and the grounds for such revocation.

As a result of these declarations, new statutory provisions for the revocation of certificates of naturalisation will have to be implemented. Until this occurs, the Minister for Justice cannot exercise her statutory power to revoke a certificate of naturalisation.

As reported by the Irish Times, Ms Justice Dunne said it is “inconceivable” that the Minister for Justice could revoke a grant of citizenship until a new process is in place with safeguards to meet natural justice requirements.

The full judgement of the Supreme Court can be read here (https://www.courts.ie/acc/alfresco/9f6e2c6d-eb77-4c9f-ad57-fffe7ffc65f6/2020_IESC_63.pdf/pdf) and the Irish Times article can be read here (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/supreme-court/supreme-court-ruling-to-require-new-rules-for-revoking-citizenship-1.4481073)

Berkeley Solicitors will post further updates on the ever-evolving law surrounding revocation of Irish citizenship as it become available.

If you or a family member have queries about the naturalisation process, please contact our office.