Decision called 'disgracefully retrograde' by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald
Tánaiste Simon Coveney has voiced his disappointment over a judgement that people born in Northern Ireland are automatically British.
The Fine Gael TD said that he will raise the issue with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland immediately.
"Citizenship and Identity provisions are critical to the Good Friday Agreement (GFA)," he said.
"The UK Govt has pledged to review rules around citizenship and deliver a long-term solution consistent with GFA. An outcome is urgently needed and I will raise this again with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland tomorrow."
Citizenship + Identity provisions critical to the GFA. UK Govt has pledged to review rules around citizenship and deliver a long term solution consistent with GFA. An outcome is urgently needed and I will raise this again with Secretary of State for NI tomorrow @EmmandJDeSouza— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) October 14, 2019
The UK government today won its appeal against an immigration tribunal ruling which found that people born in Northern Ireland are not automatically British.
The woman at the centre of the case, Emma DeSouza, from Magherafelt, Co Derry, applied for a residence card for her US-born husband Jake. She made the application identifying herself as an Irish citizen.
The Home Office - a ministerial department for the British government - rejected the application on the grounds that it considered Ms DeSouza a British citizen. Officials told her she should could either reapply identifying herself as British, or renounce her UK citizenship and reapply as an Irish citizen.
The Derry woman argued that she never considered herself British, so how could she renounce citizenship she never had.
Ms DeSouza took a legal challenge against the Home Office and won, with a judge at a First Tier Immigration Tribunal ruling that she was an "Irish national only, who has only ever been such".
The Home Office appealed against that decision at an Upper Tribunal hearing earlier this year.
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said the British government was "trampling over the Good Friday Agreement" following today’s judgement against Ms DeSouza.
"This decision from the court today in the Emma de Souza case is a disgracefully retrograde step," she said.
"The Good Friday Agreement is crystal clear on this in terms of citizenship. Emma De Souza is an Irish citizen and it is disgraceful that she should have to go to court to prove it.
"The British government is a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, but yet it is trampling all over it.
“This is the same British government that continually claims to be upholding the Good Friday Agreement, yet its actions give lie to that claim.
"Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told us that Irish citizens in the North will never again be left behind by an Irish government. The Irish government now needs to step up and defend the rights of all Irish citizens."
Ms DeSouza revealed the outcome of the appeal at a press conference in Belfast.
"We have not received a decision in our favour, the decision has gone in the favour of the Secretary of State," she said.
"We have unfortunately lost. We are both deeply disappointed by this decision today."
We have lost.— Emma DeSouza (@EmmandJDeSouza) October 14, 2019
More to follow.
She insisted her legal battle would go on.
"After four years it's safe to say we won't be lying down anytime soon," she said.
Ms DeSouza had insisted the Home Office position ran contrary to the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, which gave anyone from Northern Ireland the right to identify as British, Irish or both.
Government lawyers argued that the British Nationality Act 1981 was the relevant legislation - not the Good Friday accord.
They highlighted that the provisions on citizenship outlined in the agreement, which was struck between the Stormont parties and the UK and Irish Governments, had not been incorporated into the corresponding piece of domestic legislation linked to the peace treaty, the 1998 Northern Ireland Act.
The Government said the British Nationality Act ruled that anyone born in Northern Ireland was automatically British, until such time as they renounce that citizenship.
Ms DeSouza accused the UK Government of failing to implement the provisions of Good Friday Agreement into UK domestic law.
She said her case will have implications for EU citizens post-Brexit.