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Rules on revocation of citizenship must change in light of human rights law
Pic: RollingNews.ie

12 Feb 2021 / justice Print

Rules on revocation of citizenship must change in light of human rights law

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has welcomed a Supreme Court ruling earlier this week that two specific provisions of the law setting out how naturalised Irish citizens can be stripped of their Irish citizenship are unconstitutional.

The court ruled that sections 19(2) and (3) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 were invalid, having regard to the Constitution, and needed to be replaced by the Minister for Justice with the approval of the Oireachtas.

The commission says it will now be necessary to introduce a new process which meets the requirements of natural justice before any revocation of citizenship can take place.

Fair procedures

In October 2020, the court ruled on the Ali Charaf Damache v the Minister for Justice and Equality case.

The court found that that the scheme in section 19 of the act for the revocation of naturalised citizenship was unconstitutional.

It then invited submissions from parties, including IHREC in its role as amicus curiae, on what order it should make following this ruling.

The commission argued before the court that it was essential that naturalised Irish citizens facing possible revocation of their citizenship were afforded fair procedures in that process as a matter of human rights law.

Safeguards

IHREC expressed its view that the appropriate order from the Supreme Court would be one striking down section 19 of the 1956 act in its entirety.

Ms Justice Dunne said, however, that she believed concerns about section 19(1) – the power to revoke naturalised citizenship – could be met by the granting of declarations striking down the other two parts of the legislation.

"Given that it is clear from the principal judgment that there has to be a process which complies with fair procedures before a certificate of naturalisation can be revoked, it would be necessary to have such a process in being before any further step could be taken to revoke the appellant’s certificate of naturalisation,” the judge added.

IHREC Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney (pictured) said the court had reiterated the need for appropriate human rights safeguards to be in place before naturalised citizenship can be revoked. She said the Minister for Justice and the Oireachtas now needed to legislate to put in place a new scheme which achieves the necessary balance and human rights protections.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland