The Taoiseach has said he will raise the Emma DeSouza case with the British Prime Minister this week.
The Derry woman has pledged to appeal an immigration tribunal ruling which found that people born in the North are automatically British, until they move to renounce their citizenship.
The UK Home Office had appealed a previous ruling that found that Ms DeSouza is an Irish national and had only ever been Irish.
Yesterday the Upper Tribunal overturned that decision – meaning that, under UK law, people born in the North must renounce British citizenship if they don’t want it.
That is despite the fact that the Good Friday Agreement says that they have the right to be British, Irish or both.
We'll be meeting with our legal team on Thursday to establish our way forward.
The Upper Tribunal decision has far reaching consequences, in my view it completely undermines and rewrites a key provision of the Good Friday Agreement.
For that reason, we have to appeal. We will. pic.twitter.com/8OPhHyi660
— Emma DeSouza (@EmmandJDeSouza) October 15, 2019
In the Dáil this afternoon, Leo Varadkar said he would raise the issue with Boris Johnson at the EU Leaders’ Summit this week.
“The Good Friday Agreement is eloquent on this matter in my view,” he said.
“The Good Friday Agreement says that people in Northern Ireland have a right to be British, Irish or both, and accepted as such.
“That is the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
“It is my view that the British citizenship laws are out of step with the letter and spirit of that agreement.”
Good Friday Agreement
He said the Tánaiste Simon Coveney would also be raising the issue with the Northern Secretary Julian Smith.
He noted that the former UK Prime Minister Theresa May promised to review the issue last February – adding that the Government is “actively seeking an outcome of that review.”
The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Belfast Agreement is “crystal clear” on the issue – and warned that simply “raising the issue” with the UK is not enough.
She said the case suggests that the UK is trying to “deny, frustrate or rob” Irish citizens in the North of their rights in a post-Brexit scenario.
“I ask the Taoiseach to do more than politely raise this matter,” she said.
“I invite him to insist that the Prime Minister moves speedily to introduce the required legislation through Westminster to ensure that Irish citizens living in Ireland are recognised and respected as Irish.”
This is not to say that we don't appreciate the work & support of both the Taoiseach & Tánaiste on this but, the Irish Government has been following up on this review for 8 months. Whilst the British Government continues to appeal against us. It's not enough.
— Emma DeSouza (@EmmandJDeSouza) October 15, 2019
Speaking after the ruling in Belfast on Monday, Ms DeSouza said she was "deeply disappointed" by "a ruling that goes against the Good Friday Agreement."
"We had hoped that the tribunal would uphold the previous judgement that ruled that I'm an Irish national only".
"We are certainly not going to go quietly into the night with this decision - a decision that really goes against the spirit and the purpose of the Good Friday Agreement.
"We think that there is a lot at stake here for everybody in Northern Ireland, and with that we have to proceed to try and protect that right for all of us."
Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on cross-border cooperation, Declan Breathnach, said the ruling has raised many concerning questions.
"This decision further underlines the difficulties and problems that Brexit may have on the Good Friday Agreement.
"Under the Good Friday Agreement anyone born in Northern Ireland has the right to identify as Irish or British or both.
"This was the agreement made in April 1998 and signed by the British and Irish governments.
"The ruling... which found in favour of the British Home Office, says this is not the case and it has now raised some unique and challenging legal issues.
"Irrespective of how the next few weeks turn out, Brexit has already caused immense damage and it will cause much more in the future. Clarity is needed in instances such as these."
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the British government is "trampling" over the Good Friday Agreement.
"This decision from the court... in the Emma de Souza case is a disgracefully retrograde step.
"The Good Friday Agreement is crystal clear on this in terms of citizenship.
"Emma De Souza is an Irish citizen and it is disgraceful that she should have to go to court to prove it.
"The British government is a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement but yet it is trampling all over it.
"This is the same British government that continually claims to be upholding the Good Friday Agreement yet its actions give lie to that claim.
"While this is a failure first and foremost of the British government, the Irish government also have a key role to play as co-guarantors of that agreement.
"Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told us that Irish citizens in the north will never again be left behind by an Irish government. The Irish Government now needs to step up and defend the rights of all Irish citizens."