Child’s Citizenship Rights upheld by Supreme Court

Citizenship is a matter of “profound significance” says Court

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has described today’s Supreme Court ruling in the case of UM v Minister for Foreign Affairs, which concerned the proper application of the power to revoke refugee status and its interaction with citizenship rights, as “a significant one in respect of citizenship and children’s rights.”

The case focused on ‘UM’ who was born in Ireland and asserted Irish citizenship on the basis of his Afghan father’s residency in the country, as a refugee, prior to his birth. His father was granted refugee status in 2006. However the Department of Justice informed the father in August 2013 that the Minister was revoking his refugee status due to fraud.

The Commission exercised its amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) function in this important case and is now studying in detail the two judgments in respect of issues raised relating to the right to citizenship at birth of children born to non-Irish parents.

UM, who was born before the revocation of his father’s refugee status, had his Irish passport application refused two years later on the basis that any residence derived from his father’s refugee grant could not be relied on for the purposes of UM’s assertion of citizenship.

The Supreme Court heard the case as it raised significant questions of the impact of retrospective application of a decision to revoke refugee status, and the impact of that decision on a child who is a citizen by birth, not having an Irish parent.

In the judgments delivered today, the Court set out that “the acquisition or loss of citizenship is a matter of profound significance for the individual concerned. Citizenship is an important aspect of the status of any individual”. The Court accepted the importance of taking account of derivative rights, such as those of children impacted by any decision to revoke refugee status. Significantly, the Court stated that a blanket approach of ‘fraud unravels all”’ could be a dangerous one for a range of reasons, including the impact on derived rights.

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

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is an important one in upholding the rights of the child with respect to citizenship.

“We welcome the ruling that the State cannot automatically deprive a child of citizenship at birth because of fraud of another person on whose residence they relied.”


For further information, please contact:

Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes for Editors:

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.

The amicus curiae function of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The Commission’s functions under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 include that of applying for liberty to appear as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) before the superior courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.

Section 10 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act sets out the functions of the Commission and Section 10(2)(e) provides that the IHREC shall have a function:

“to apply to the High Court or the Supreme Court for liberty to appear before the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, as amicus curiae in proceedings before that Court that involve or are concerned with the human rights or equality rights of any person and to appear as such an amicus curiae on foot of such liberty being granted (which liberty each of the said courts is hereby empowered to grant in its absolute discretion).”