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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 31 March, 2020

DeSouza to argue her case in US: 'Political pressure must be brought to bear on the British government'

Emma DeSouza will be asking the House of Representatives to pass a resolution supporting her case to self-identify as Irish.

Emma DeSouza and her husband Jake.
Emma DeSouza and her husband Jake.
Image: Niall Carson

EMMA DESOUZA IS to visit the US next week to highlight her case and ask the House of Representatives to pass a resolution supporting the argument that citizens in Northern Ireland should have the birthright to self-identify as Irish. 

DeSouza will be visiting Washington, Philadelphia, New York and Boston over a 10-day period from Sunday “to highlight the failure of the British government” to legislate for this provision of the Good Friday Agreement in British domestic law.

DeSouza won a case against the UK’s Home Office in 2017 after it deemed she was British when her US-born husband Jake applied for an EEA residence card, with the judge in that tribunal arguing that the Good Friday Agreement “supersedes” British domestic law: “Nationality cannot therefore be imposed upon them at birth.”

But on 14 October, an immigration tribunal upheld an appeal brought by the Home Office, and argued in its decision that “a person’s nationality cannot depend in law on an undisclosed state of mind”.

This decision is now being appealed by DeSouza; the Irish government also supports the DeSouzas’ argument, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stating in the Dáil that Emma DeSouza “is an Irish citizen”. 

In a statement, DeSouza said that instead of providing a mechanism for citizens in Northern Ireland to self-identify as British or Irish or both, the British government is “seeking to rewrite the intent and scope of the provision, and continues to challenge the purpose of this provision through the British courts”.

She continued:

Fundamental change is required and political pressure must be brought to bear on the British government.

“This is why I’ll be travelling to Washington to meet with members of Congress to seek a resolution in the House calling on the British government to give domestic legal effect to the birthright entitlement of the people of Northern Ireland so that we can exercise our free choice to be accepted as Irish or British or both.

Currently the British Government is arguing that the automatic conferral of British citizenship on those who identify solely as Irish is consistent with the Good Friday Agreement – it isn’t.

DeSouza will be hosted by the Ad Hoc Committee to Protect the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish ambassador to the US, and the NCAFP.

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