The Citizenship and Identity provisions are central to the Good Friday Agreement and it is vital that they are upheld. The Government has consistently engaged with the British Government in support of this, and we will continue to do so.
It is important to say that Ms. Emma De Souza is an Irish citizen, and this is provided for and protected under the Good Friday Agreement.
I am meeting with the De Souzas and political representatives next week to discuss the case and the concerns it raises for the Citizenship and Identity provisions of the Agreement. I have recently written to Ms. De Souza to assure her that, consistent with our responsibilities as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Government will remain engaged on the issues raised by her case, and others of a similar nature, until a satisfactory resolution is found.
The Taoiseach has raised the De Souza case with the British Prime Minister and has confirmed that he will do so again following the UK general election.
I have myself discussed the matter with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on a number of occasions, most recently at our meeting on 14 November.
In February, then Prime Minister Theresa May acknowledged the serious concerns in this area and pledged to “review the issues around citizenship urgently to deliver a long term solution consistent with the letter and spirit” of the Agreement.
In this context, the decision of the Tribunal in the De Souza case on 14 October last does not define the extent of the British Government’s obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.
In the Good Friday Agreement, the Governments “recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both” and “confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments” . The Good Friday Agreement therefore includes an explicit right to both Irish and British citizenship, and an explicit right of people to identify and be accepted as Irish, or British, or both.
It is imperative that people in Northern Ireland have confidence in these provisions of the Agreement, in letter and in spirit. To provide for that, a positive outcome to the review mandated by the British Government is now urgently needed.
I have also written to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the British Home Secretary to formally ask that the review that was mandated be urgently concluded to provide an outcome that is consistent with the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.
Sensitive and generous approaches by the British Government are needed to ensure that the right of people in Northern Ireland to identify as Irish, or British, or both, is meaningfully provided for in all relevant policy areas.
The Government will continue to strongly pursue this with the British Government, as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.