Man appeals over citizenship refusal on 'national security' grounds

A man who got refugee status here more than 25 years ago but has been refused citizenship on “national security” grounds has appealed to the Supreme Court.

A five-judge court heard and reserved judgment on the appeal, which raises important issues, including whether an internal decision by the Department of Justice refusing a certificate of naturalisation can be externally reviewed.

The hearing was attended by judges who are part of a 35-member visiting delegation from ACA-Europe, a European association composed of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Councils of State or the Supreme administrative jurisdictions of each EU member state. The objectives of ACA-Europe include to get a better understanding of EU law by Supreme Court judges across Europe and to improve mutual trust between judges of those courts.

The man, from a non-EU country, has lived here for more than 25 years, says he is of good character and does not know why he has been refused citizenship. He has made several applications for citizenship, all of which have been rejected.

After he took proceedings seeking reasons for another refusal in 2013, the High Court ruled in 2014 he was entitled to inspect some parts, but not all, of certain documents held by the State concerning his background.

It also directed the State should provide more detailed reasons for the decision not to grant the man a certificate of naturalisation.

The man then made another application for naturalisation, which was also rejected by the Minister.

As part of that refusal, he was given a report which recommended against granting the application on the basis the Minister “cannot have confidence in the applicant’s declaration of fidelity to the Irish State in this case nor be satisfied that the applicant meets the condition of good character as specified in s. 15(1)(b) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 as amended”.

The report also stated the man’s right to specific reasons beyond reasons of “national security” was outweighed by national security interests in maintaining the confidentiality over the information concerned.

The Court of Appeal later dismissed the man’s appeal against a High Court decision rejecting his challenge over the refusal.

The Four Courts in Dublin, file photo

Among various findings, the Court of Appeal ruled the exercise of conferring citizenship to a foreign national may be regarded as part of the inviolate core of national sovereignty envisaged by Article 5 of the Constitution and does not, therefore, involve implementation of EU law within the sense understood by Article 51.1 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The man secured a further appeal to the Supreme Court.

The core issues in the appeal include whether the grant of citizenship is within the unfettered discretion of the Minister for Justice and, if so, whether an applicant can rely on any procedures for their benefit.

Other issues include whether national security issues need to be disclosed to an applicant for citizenship in such a way as to enable them to meet, or make any relevant representations about, those concerns before any decision against a grant of citizenship is made.

The court will also decide whether fair procedures require that a decision internal to the Department of Justice to refuse citizenship be reviewed externally and by what mechanism.

A further issue is whether the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms governs the application for and refusal of citizenship by the Minister.

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