Further concerns over rights of Irish citizens in the north over Brexit
[Caroline Nokes’s] position makes a mockery of the agreement’s pledge that it is the ‘birth right’ of people born in the North to be accepted as Irish or British (or both) – Daniel Holder
CONCERNS have been raised again about the rights of people in the North claiming Irish citizenship after Brexit.
It comes after a statement by British immigration minister Caroline Nokes on the same day Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to examine difficulties faced by Irish citizens who want to bring family members into the North. Under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA) people have the right to Irish or British citizenship. In response to a parliamentary question this week, Ms Kokes said: “Irish citizens resident in the UK who do not hold British citizenship will be eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they choose. However, they do not need to so under the reciprocal Common Travel Area arrangements with Ireland.” The EU Settlement Scheme will allow EU citizens to continue living in Britain or the North of Ireland after Brexit.
However, the Home Office has previously said it views people born in the North as British, a position some believe including myself is contrary to the GFA. It has ment that family members of people born in the North of Ireland but claiming Irish citizenship may have difficulty securing residency. Daniel Holder, deputy director of the Committee on the Administration of Justice expressed concern. “Under the current Home Office position that the North of Ireland-born people should be treated as British, this means that no Irish citizen born in the North could benefit from the retained EU citizens’ rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, that are to be accessed by the EU Settlement Scheme,” he said. Mr Holder said Ms Nokes is at odds with the GFA.
“Her position makes a mockery of the agreement’s pledge that it is the ‘birth right’ of people born in the North to be accepted as Irish or British (or both),” he said. Back in December 2017 separate UK-EU commitments were made for arrangements for Irish citizens residing in the North of Ireland to continue to be able to exercise EU rights – but these arrangements were never put into place.
“This Home Office position means Irish citizens here may be among the only EU citizens not to have a mechanism to retain some of their EU rights.” Ms Nokes caused controversy last year when she admitted to the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that she had not read the Good Friday Agreement “in its entity”. A Home Office spokesman said on Wednesday night it was ” absolutely committed to upholding the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement which confirms the birth right of the people of the North of Ireland to identify as British or Irish or both, as they may choose, and to hold both British and Irish citizenship. “We respect the right of the people in the North of Ireland to choose how they identify,” he said.
With many thanks to: Connla Young and The Irish News for the original story.
THE IRISH NEWS Pro fide et patria
Rights battle was ludicrous hurdle
WHILE Theresa May offered little fresh thinking on the Brexit crisis during her two-day visit to Belfast, which ended on Wednesday, she deserves credit for indicating that the alarming saga over citizenship rights endured by Co Derry woman Emma DeSouza could at last be close to a positive outcome.
Mrs DeSouza, as a holder of an Irish passport, was ludicrously told by the UK’s Home Office that she needed to declare herself to be a British citizen if her US-born husband, Jake, was to be granted a visa officially allowing him to live at their Magherafelt home.
After the issue was repeatedly highlighted by The Irish News, Mrs May said she had specifically asked Home Office Sajid Javid to consider how such cases could be addressed as a matter of urgency. There will be relief when Mr DeSouza’s application is finally approved but it remains disturbing that his wife needed to go to court in order to demonstrate her entitlement to an Irish identity under the Good Friday Agreement.
With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story.
HAMSTRUNG HISTORICAL INQUIRIES UNIT (HIU) HAS NO CHANCE OF SUCCESS
YOU probably didn’t notice and there’s no reason why you should, but the same day that a certain loyalist blogger and serial self-publicist was giving evidence to Stormont’s Nama inquiry the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) snuck out its policy paper on implementing the Stormont House Agreement.
Needless to say it got it got virtually no coverage in the tidal wave of sensational allegations made about the alleged recipients of money from the Cerberus deal. If you’ve ever wondered why the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) decided to draft the Stormont House Agreement Bill 2015 and bring it through Westminister rather than allow the clowns in the big house on the hill to legislate, once you read the policy paper all becomes clear. Quite simply the British government intends to control the Historical Inquires Unit (HIU), on what information it can have and what it can reveal. Anyone who beleives that the Policing Board will hold the HIU accountable is living in cloud-cuckoo land. “The secretary of state will have oversight of the HIU regarding reserved and excepted matters.” The UK government will prevent disclosure of any material or information ‘likely to prejudice national security (including information from the intelligence services)’. None of this material can be published ‘without the consent of the secretary of state’. Now as we all know from past experience, ‘likely to prejudice national security’ is whatever our proconsul for the time being decides is national security. When you look at the policy paper you see it begins with a questionable statement and continues to ignore all suggestions and recommendations made by interested parties, nationalist political parties, NGOs like the Committee for the Administration of Justice and university academics. In short, it’s a classic NIO document. It begins with the unconvincing claim that ‘the institutions have the needs of the victims and their families are at their heart’. No. The needs of secrecy in the Ministry of Defence, the NIO and the Home Office are at their heart. It has never been any different in the secretive British state.
For example it was only in 2002 after Freedom of Information requests that details of Special Branch investigation into Charles Stewart Parnell and other Irish MPs were released and even then only in restricted fashion. The names of informers (touts) and amounts paid are still secret 125 years after the fact. Academics at QUB, Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) politicians and the CAJ among others recommended that former RUC and RUC Special Branch personnel be not employed in the HIU partly because they may have been complicit in collusion or cover up or both. The great merit of the Historical Enquiries Team was that its personnel were seconded from English forces and we all know why. However, ignoring all that, ‘the bill does not prohibit the HIU from recruiting persons who have previously served in policing or security roles in the North of Ireland.’
So the HIU won’t work and the NIO has made sure it won’t work because it will only investigate and publish what the NIO allows it to invstigate and publish. Then there’s the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR). It’s modelled on the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) which has worked extremely well. However, the NIO policy paper goes out of its way to make clear that while information given to the ICIR is inadmissible in court, if that information is obtained or can be obtained by other means then prosecution may follow.
That puts the kibosh on the ICIR because given the record of the PSNI over the past four years, starting with the Boston College fiasco (all hearsay) and continuing with their apparent trawling after the killing of Kevin McGuigan with almost a score of people arrested and released, who is going to risk giving information to the ICIR to pass to families? Inevitably individuals in the PSNI/RUC would be working backwards from the material a family recieved. In mitigation it has to be said on the basis of evidence so far, that’s only likely in the case of prominent Sinn Féin figures. Buried in the policy paper is our proconsul’s admission that ‘on some detailed questions covered in the bill, there is not yet a clear consensus between the five main North of Ireland parties. Work will continue to build consensus on remaining points of difference.’ Yeah right.
With many thanks to: Brian Feeny, for the origional story, The Irish News.
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