Minister for Justice and Equality announces the establishment of a Single Person Committee of Inquiry to review Irish Citizenship application refusals

The Minister for Justice and Equality Miss Helen McEntee announced on the 30th September 2020 that a new Single Person Committee of Inquiry has been established to review Irish citizenship application refusals where a person has been refused due to national security concerns.

Mr Justice John Hedigan, a retired and most respected Judge who sat on the High Court, Court of Appeal and European Court of Human Rights will serve as the single member of this committee.

From the 30th of September 2020, where an Applicant receives a negative decision with respect to their application for Irish citizenship, and the application is refused either in whole or in part, due to national security concerns, they may now seek disclosure of the information which the Minister for Justice relied upon in refusing the application.

An application for disclosure of the information must be submitted in writing to the member of the single person committee within three months of the decision to refuse their citizenship application.

The committee member will then consider the request and advise the Minister for Justice and Equality whether to:

  1. Disclose none of the information to the applicant.
  2. Provide partial disclosure of the information to the applicant.
  3. Provide full disclosure of the information to the applicant.

Where partial disclosure is recommended, the member must provide the Minister an indicative wording as to the “gist” of the information that might be shared.

The Minister will then consider the advises of the member but will retain the power to issue the final decision on disclosure.

Whilst we greatly welcome the introduction of a committee of enquiry we do have reservations with respect to whether it would have been more appropriate to establish a committee with a number of members as opposed to a single member committee.  The fact that the member is appointed by the Minister for Justice and reports to the Minister does we feel,  raise some questions with respect to independence. Notwithstanding this, we fully support the establishment of the committee and the fact that applicants who are refused their citizenship applications based on national security concerns will now receive due process in having the opportunity to seek disclosure of the information which has been relied upon by the Minister for Justice in refusing their application, is a significant development.

It is important to note that only applicants who have been refused Irish citizenship due to national security concerns can avail of this process. Applicants who have been refused for other reasons, such as previous criminal convictions, absences from the State or other reasons should seek legal advises to establish whether there are grounds to challenge any such refusal by way of judicial review, or any alternative options available to them.

The Immigration team at Sinnott Solicitors have extensive experience in all Irish citizenship and immigration matters. If you have any queries do not hesitate to contact our Immigration Department today on 00353 1 406 2862 or info@sinnott.ie.