Monday 19 February 2018

National security fears in case where Iranian was refused Irish citizenship

Frances Fitzgerald: refused to provide reasons for decision. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Frances Fitzgerald: refused to provide reasons for decision. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

An Iranian refugee living in Ireland for the past 25 years has had a bid to attain Irish citizenship rejected amid concerns over "national security".

The High Court has heard that Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald relied on a secret report in deciding to turn down his application to be naturalised.

The father of two, who cannot be named, was not given specific reasons for the refusal and it is understood he fears that he could have his refugee status revoked and face deportation in the future.

The case comes just weeks after a Jordanian national, who was linked by intelligence to the Isil terror group, was deported following an order from the minister.

Ms Fitzgerald has defended the use of deportations based on intelligence in cases where there is insufficient evidence to bring a criminal prosecution in Ireland.

Read more: Deporting jihadists justified on national security grounds - Tánaiste

Read more: Defeating terrorism is not about abandoning human rights for the sake of expediency

In the Iranian man's case, the High Court was told that a secret report, known as Document C, was compiled based on information provided to the minister "in strictest confidence".

The source of the information was not disclosed. But a Department of Justice official said information from external security agencies was used as part of rigorous checks on applicants for naturalisation.

Lawyers for Ms Fitzgerald argued that the information provided to her could not be released "on grounds of protecting national security and international relations".

This is the second time the man has taken High Court proceedings in a bid to gain Irish citizenship. A previous ruling, in May 2014, quashed a decision by the then Justice Minister Alan Shatter to refuse his application for naturalisation.

However, when the Iranian man applied again, he was again turned down by Ms Shatter's successor, Frances Fitzgerald, in September 2014.

He subsequently brought another High Court action, seeking a review of her decision.

The man also sought an order obliging the Department to Justice to give an outline of the information that adversely affected his application.

He argued that the absence of any clearly stated and reasoned findings made the decision to refuse his naturalisation unlawful.

The man claimed that he had "no idea" what information had led to his name being impugned. He claimed that he was of good character and was being denied the opportunity to challenge any slur made against him.

But in a ruling published this week, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said the man had failed to prove that there was an error in the minister's decision-making process. The man is now expected to lodge an appeal.

In a submission on behalf of the minister, Ms Justice Stewart heard that Ms Fitzgerald was relying upon executive privilege in her refusal to give reasons or a detailed explanation.

Her legal team argued that the interests of national security outweighed any right the man may have to detailed reasons for the decision.

The judge was told "a question mark" hung over how genuine any declaration of fidelity and loyalty to the State by the man would be. Nor was the minister satisfied that the man passed a "good character" test.

This is a requirement which exists under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956.

Ms Justice Stewart said that under the Act the minister was permitted to make a decision that best reflects the fundamental elements of fair procedures, balanced with the requirement to protect the safety of the State.

She also noted that it was not open to the man to seek access to the personal information sought under data protection legislation. The judge said the Data Protection Act 1988 did not apply to information kept for the purposes of safeguarding the security of the State.

Irish Independent

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