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IHREC studying ‘significant’ Supreme Court ruling
Sinead Gibney of IHREC Pic: RollingNews.ie

03 Jun 2022 / human rights Print

IHREC studying ‘significant’ Supreme Court ruling

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has welcomed what it has described as a “significant” Supreme Court ruling on citizenship and children’s rights.

The case of UM v Minister for Foreign Affairs concerned the application of the power to revoke refugee status, and its interaction with citizenship rights.

‘UM’, who was born in Ireland, claimed 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.

The Department of Justice, however, informed the father in August 2013 that the minister was revoking his refugee status due to fraud.

Impact on children

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.

IHREC, which exercised its amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) function in the case, said it was 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.

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 was a citizen by birth, not having an Irish parent.

Dangers of blanket approach

In the judgments delivered yesterday (2 June), the Supreme Court allowed UM’s appeal. It 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”.

It accepted the importance of taking account of derivative rights, such as those of children impacted by any decision to revoke refugee status.

In what the commission saw as a significant aspect of the ruling, 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 (IHREC chief commissioner, pictured) described the ruling as important 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,” she added.

Under human-rights legislation, IHREC can apply for liberty to appear as an amicus curiae before the superior courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.

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