Commission Examines Supreme Court Decision on Constitutional Rights of Non-Citizens

Commission appeared before the Supreme Court as amicus curiae

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) is examining the decision of the Supreme Court, in a case concerning the extent to which non-citizens may rely on the rights guaranteed by the Constitution when subject to deportation orders. The Commission had been joined to the case in its amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) function.

The case involved a non-national man, the father of children lawfully resident in the State, who is subject to a deportation order. Together, the family asserted that the Minister for Justice has a duty to consider the Constitutional rights of the father when making such an order and of his children to his care and company. The question as to what extent non-citizens could rely on Constitutional rights when subject to deportation was central to the case.

In its role as amicus curiae, the Commission submitted that the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution are based on the essential humanity of all people and can be relied on by all citizens and non-citizens when they are within the jurisdiction of the State or subject to its powers. It further asserted this position as being recognised both in domestic case law and consistent with the State’s binding obligations under international law.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court referred to the Commission’s “helpful submissions”. The Court concluded that the applicant father had not established that he had a meaningful relationship with his children such as would give rise to an impermissible interference with his and/or their rights in the even that he was deported. In delivering the Court’s judgment, Chief Justice O’Donnell said:

“It would require exceptional considerations of particular weight to prevent the State from requiring a non-citizen, whose presence in Ireland was unlawful, to leave the State having regard to the weight that must be accorded to the fundamental interests of the State in maintaining its capacity to control entry to and exit from the State.”

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“This case involved the fundamental rights of non-citizens including a family with young children. Any deportation that affects or even potentially affects the private and family rights of children should be carefully considered and proportionate.

We thank the Court for the opportunity to assist it with our submissions about the rights of this non-citizen family and we will study the ruling closely.”


For further information, please contact:
Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,
01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760
Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note

The function of amicus curiae is an important legal power of the Commission. It allows us to address the court in a non-partisan role on issues concerning human rights and equality that have wider consequences for society in general. Recently, we have used this power to assist the courts on various human rights and equality issues in the public interest, including on the right to a fair trial, immigration, the use of search warrants and anti-social behaviour orders.

You can read our Legal Submissions on this case by clicking the link below

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.