Supreme Court Rules that Procedure to Revoke Irish Citizenship is Unconstitutional

Commission as Amicus Curiae Welcomes Court’s Focus on Constitutional Rights

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has today welcomed the Supreme Court ruling in a high-profile Supreme Court case (Ali Charaf Damache v the Minister for Justice and Equality), which focuses on the procedure for the revocation of Irish citizenship.  The Commission has exercised its amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) powers in this case.

The case examined the lawfulness of the existing procedure under Section 19 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, which provides for a power to revoke Irish citizenship from people who acquire Irish nationality.

In today’s judgment, the Supreme Court held that the loss of citizenship is a matter of “grave significance” and ruled that the process for revocation must be robust.

The Court highlighted the need for an impartial and independent decision-maker in the decision to revoke citizenship. The Court found that the Minister for Justice starts the Section 19 process, appoints representatives to the investigating Committee of Inquiry (sought by the person whose citizenship is in jeopardy), and it is the Minister’s representatives who present the reasons for the proposed revocation. Finally, at the end of the statutory process, the Minister takes the ultimate decision on whether to revoke without being bound by the findings of the Committee.

The Commission made submissions to Court on both national and international human rights standards and argued that the revocation of citizenship will necessarily and seriously affect civil rights including the right to private and family life, the right to vote, and other statutory entitlements.

In delivering the Supreme Court ruling Ms. Justice Dunne set out that:

“Given the importance of the status of citizenship to an individual, I think it is quite clear that the process by which citizenship may be lost must be robust and at the very least… must observe minimum procedural standards in order to comply with the State’s human rights obligations.”

While the Court held that there was nothing to suggest that the members of the Committee of Inquiry were anything but independent in the exercise of their functions, it went on to find that the necessary procedural safeguards were not in place. Ms Justice Dunne concluded that Section 19 is unconstitutional:

“I have come to the conclusion that s.19 is does not meet the high standards of natural justice required and is therefore invalid having regard to the provisions of the Constitution.”

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

“The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has argued in our role as Amicus Curiae that any decision to revoke citizenship must have strong procedural safeguards. Today’s Supreme Court ruling has recognised that these safeguards are central to the process of revoking someone’s Irish citizenship in line with our Constitution.”

“Citizenship is inextricably linked with the right to identity and a range of civil rights, therefore the Commission welcomes today’s Supreme Court ruling.

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note

The Commission’s written submissions to the Supreme Court are available at the following link:

https://www.ihrec.ie/documents/legal-submissions-damache-v-minister-for-justice-and-equality/

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).”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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