NI appeals court to hear case of a woman who was ruled to be a British citizen

THE COURT OF Appeal of Northern Ireland will today hear the case of a Derry woman who was ruled to be a British citizen, despite her identifying as Irish since being born in Northern Ireland. 

Emma De Souza has lodged a challenge in the Court of Appeal in Belfast to a ruling that those born in Northern Ireland are automatically British citizens.

Her case is supported by the government here, with Simon Coveney saying earlier this week that De Souza shouldn’t have to go to court to assert her right to identify as Irish under the Good Friday Agreement.

Emma De Souza had originally won a case against the UK’s Home Office in 2017 after it deemed she was British when her US-born husband Jake applied for a residence card.Preview (opens in a new tab)

The judge in that tribunal argued that the Good Friday Agreement “supersedes” British domestic law: “Nationality cannot therefore be imposed upon them at birth.”

Both the UK and Irish governments pledged in the Good Friday Agreement 1998 to “recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both” and “confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments”.

But on 14 October, an immigration tribunal upheld an appeal brought by the Home Office, and argued in its decision that “a person’s nationality cannot depend in law on an undisclosed state of mind”.

This ruling could mean that the UK views “identify” in an unofficial capacity – meaning you can identify personally, but officially and legally, citizens in Northern Ireland are British.

The De Souzas were granted leave by the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland to appeal this ruling and the case is due to be heard in court today.


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