Emma jpg

She’s Irish and she’s here

Emma De Souza and her husband Jake with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney in a photo tweeted by Minister Coveney


By Irish Echo Staff

Derry woman Emma De Souza, who is challenging a court ruling that she is British and not Irish, is in the U.S. this week as part of her campaign to turn back the ruling, this on the grounds that it contravenes the Good Friday Agreement.

De Souza is meeting Irish American political leaders and activists in Washington, D.C., New York, Philadelphia and Boston during her ten day stay.

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She is highlighting what she describes as the British government's failure to give domestic legal effect to the birthright provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

De Souza argues that citizens in Northern Ireland should have the birthright to self-identify as Irish.

The Derry-native won a case against the UK Home Office in 2017 with the presiding judge ruling that the "Good Friday Agreement supersedes British domestic law."

The Home Office had deemed she was British when her American husband, Jake, applied for a European Economic Area residency card.

However, the UK Home Office successfully argued that Northern Irish-born persons have no right to choose their nationality, though they are permitted on a personal level to identify as Irish. The Home Office states that they are British at birth.

On October 14 last, an immigration tribunal ruled that the people of Northern Ireland remain British citizens - even if they identify themselves as Irish.

“I'll be taking this issue to the U.S. to meet and engage with members of Congress, rights groups and Irish associations,” De Souza said in a Tweet before her arrival in the U.S.

“It will take the support of many to bring pressure to bear on the UK to fully implement the GFA,” she stated.

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

According to the Irish government, the Citizenship and Identity provisions of the Good Friday Agreement are central to the agreement.

De Souza will meet members of Congress on Capitol Hill and will be seeking a congressional resolution calling on the British government to give full legal effect to the birthright entitlement of people in Northern Ireland to choose to be British, Irish, or both.

The Brehon Law Society of New York, in a statement, said it supported De Souza “in her fight to ensure that her birthright and identity are honored in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement.”

Added the Brehon statement, issued by its president, Jennifer Frankola Crawford: “The fight is not about ‘a concept,’ or ‘an aspiration,’ or a ‘personal choice.’ It is a right that should not be ignored or taken lightly. The right to self-identity is enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement and must be honored and upheld as it has broad sweeping implications and effects on many people’s lives.

“We call upon the U.S. congress to seek a resolution ensuring the British Government give full effect to the birthright entitlement of the people of Northern Ireland to choose to be Irish, British or both and to uphold and honor the entire Good Friday Agreement. It is right and just.”

Meanwhile, De Souza is scheduled to meet with the National Committee on American Foreign Policy in Manhattan on Thursday.