We Are Irish Too
Citizens, immigration practitioner’s, Human Rights groups and politicians call on the Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Tanaiste Simon Coveney
Concern and unrest has been developing over citizenship rights in Northern Ireland, amplified with the Brexit deadline fast approaching and furthered by the inability of the UK Home Office to adhere to legislation, current international law and the UK governments commitments to the Good Friday Agreement.
A particular unease grows for Irish citizens with what appears to be a growing culture of disregard for their status within the UK. One immigration solicitor stated:
"I have had a client accused of obtaining her Irish passport by fraud because she was born in Northern Ireland, I have had clients told that their Irish citizen child isn’t settled in the UK. I have seen statements made in court that that a person couldn’t be Irish if born to a parent from Northern Ireland. These are just some random examples but the incidents are constant and occur at all levels.”
In addition to this there has been a long standing assertion by the UK Home Office that all citizens born in Northern Ireland are British by birth. Classing those that hold an Irish passport as dual nationals and voiding their EU rights, as an Irish citizen, to family life. The Good Friday Agreement states that all the people of Northern Ireland have "The birthright to be Irish or British or both as they may so chose and to be accepted as such.” It does not say everyone born in NI is British but can also be Irish.
This treatment of the Good Friday Agreement by the UK Home office is deeply worrying. Despite the fact that it is an international treaty that the Home Office is required to act in accordance with it. This disregard brings into question the department’s commitments after Brexit.
The question around the Belfast Agreement, Brexit and EU rights has been covered widely since the referendum with an agreement in December wherenthe UK Government and the EU spoke on our GFA rights and said the following:
“Both Parties acknowledge that the 1998 Agreement recognises the birth right of all the people of Northern Ireland to choose to be Irish or British or both and be accepted as such,” the joint text agreed by the two sides states.
“The people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in Northern Ireland.”
Sounds good but this is what’s actually happening
We’ve been caught in a dispute over Irish citizenship with the Home Office for 3 years
The UK Home Office is consistently denying the EU rights of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and persistently appeals against those who try to assert these rights. A core principle of the Good Friday Agreement is equality of citizenship without differential or detrimental treatment but families who choose an Irish identity are experiencing what can only be felt as discrimination.
Further to those in Northern Ireland, a gap in legislation was uncovered recently that could see some Irish citizens left vulnerable to immigration after Brexit.
Who we are
We are the many families in Northern Ireland facing unnecessary and detrimental treatment by the UK Home Office.
We are the family who has waited over two years for a decision. The family whose children can’t see their grandparents and whose father is seriously ill that we cannot visit. “We have no freedom of movement.”
We are the young married couple who faced an impossible decision - renounce a citizenship that was never accepted in order to be considered solely Irish by the UK Home Office. Renouncing came at great personal and monetary cost and allows the Home Office to hold our passport indefinitely. “We have no freedom of movement.”
We are the family, with another child on the way, facing years of litigation and appeals because we maintained the GFA right to be Irish. “We have no freedom of movement.”
Calling on both the Home Secretary and the Irish Government
What is clear is that more needs to be done to protect the rights of all Irish citizens especially those going up against a government body that often makes errors and mistakes with devastating consequences. The level and frequency of these oversights result in many valid immigration applications to be refused, misleading courts and in many instances leading to the needless breakup of families.
That is why today both the Home Secretary Sajid Javid and the Tanaiste Simon Conveney received letters of concern, from the families, from immigration practitionor’s and politicians, with support from NGOs and academics in law and Human Rights.
We ask that the Home Secretary ceases the detrimental treatment of Irish nationals, in particular those born in Northern Ireland. Furthermore to ensure all staff are trained on the citizenship clause of the Good Friday Agreement and the unique position of Irish citizens within the UK. It is imperative that all levels - from advice lines to decision makers can adequately understand and handle these cases. We also ask that the Home Secretary look at the Home Office policies on retention of passports, advising NI citizens to renounce British citizenship and the UK government’s commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.
We urge the Irish government, as co-guantors of the Good Friday Agreement, to look at these Home Office policies. Further, with a duty of care to all Irish citizens, we ask that the government provides additional information and legal advice to all those affected. It is clear that promises of protecting the identity and citizenship rights within the GFA are falling to the wayside. We ask the Irish Government to refocus and redouble efforts to safeguard these rights and entitlements.
You can read more about me and my husband’s struggle with the Home Office here
I gathered these letters after it became clear that our experience was not unique, not a one off but an emerging pattern. I have felt the pain and distress and desperation of each person that has confided in me. These families need help, they need answers. It is my hope that Said Jahvid honours his statements to end the hostile environment.
I’d like to thank the following people for your invaluable support
Una Boyd — MSM Law
Niall O`Donnghaile — Sinn Fein Senator
Claire Hanna MLA - SDLP
Paula Bradshaw MLA- Alliance
Daniel Holder - Deputy Director CAJ (Committee for Administrative Justice)
Colin Harvey- Professor of Human Rights law QUB
And everyone else who has taken the time to guide and assist us through the process.
If you support our concerns you can sign a petition to Sajid Javid here
Holding out hope that we can build a life in Northern Ireland - Emma and Jake Desouza