The recent case of Emma DeSouza goes to the heart of identity and citizenship issues in the current political context of Brexit, says Caldwell & Robinson’s Senior Partner Karen O’Leary  

Ms DeSouza, from Derry in Northern Ireland, is contesting a decision by the British Home Office that she and her lawyers argue undermines rights of identity guaranteed in the Good Friday Agreement. 

O’Leary explains that “the British government’s position is that the UK Home Office continues in its presumption that the people of Northern Ireland are automatically British. Irish passport holders are therefore considered dual nationals, with British citizenship taking precedent.

This position is completely at odds with the birthright provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, which provides that Northern Ireland citizens have a unique right to be Irish, British, or both”, says O’Leary.

Consequently, Northern Ireland born Irish citizens are to be among the only EU citizens unable to apply under the EU settlement scheme, which is the UK government’s enactment of the citizens rights chapter of the withdrawal agreement. This scheme provides a legal underpinning to EU rights that do not exist in current domestic legislation.

While the many legal ambiguities of Brexit prevail, cases such as Ms DeSouza’s are likely to become more commonplace.

Caldwell & Robinson Solicitors are an Ireland-wide legal practice specialising in corporate, commercial and family law.


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