Case ended but campaign continues says DeSouza

Emma DeSouza is at bottom of this Zoom screenshot while Jennifer Frankola Crawford of the Brehon Law Society of New York is at the top.



By Irish Echo Staff

The Brehon Law Society of New York recently hosted a Emma DeSouza in a Zoom talk about the recent developments in her case and a discussion about the future.

Brehon President Jennifer Frankola Crawford moderated the event.

According to a Brehon release, Emma spoke about the history and implications of her recent court case on identity and citizenship rights in Northern Ireland.

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She delivered a call to action to Irish America to help continue to highlight the importance of the Good Friday Agreement and urged the Brehons to take action to ensure it is being honored and upheld.

Emma, said the release, also spoke about the need for an all inclusive discussion and dialogue regarding the topic of Irish unity including the voice of Irish America.

Attendees in the Zoom linkup included John Feerick, Ambassador Susan Elliot, Martin Flaherty, Siobhan Dennehy, Catherine Stanton (president of Nassau Brehons) and other members of the Brehons, Irish American Unity Conference, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

DeSouza recently dropped her legal challenge following a change to immigration laws.

She had been involved in a long legal battle with the British Home Office over whether being born in Northern Ireland automatically conferred a person with British citizenship.

A recent change in immigration laws, however, means that people from the North can now use a scheme designed for European nationals – the EU Settlement Scheme – in order to apply for residency for non-European spouses, without first having to renounce British citizenship.

DeSouza's husband, Jake, is a U.S. citizen.

Effectively, thejournal.ie online news website reported, it means people in Northern Ireland have an entitlement to be treated as Irish citizens under immigration laws if they so wish.

However, the journal.ie report added, the move only applies for the duration of the EU Settlement Scheme, which closes to new applications next year.

DeSouza’s case came following an application for a residence card from her husband.

In withdrawing her legal challenge she stated: “The changes forced through by our case will now allow my husband to remain in the United Kingdom on the basis of my Irish citizenship and require the Home Office to respect my right under the Good Friday Agreement to be accepted as Irish – the terms which set the foundation of our legal complaint, and the grounds we were forced to argue in court time and again until the British government finally conceded that we were right all along.

“Therefore, we have been left with no other option but to withdraw our application to appeal to the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland.”

DeSouza added: “We know that many will be disappointed by this news, as our work to address the inconsistencies in the implementation of legislation for the Good Friday Agreement has highlighted that there is so much more at stake here than just the changes we achieved in our case.

“The changes to the Immigration rules, whilst enormously welcomed and beneficial to many, do not fully address all the underlying issues plaguing this region.

“The British government has failed to give domestic legal effect to the birthright provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and continues to automatically confer British citizenship on all the people of Northern Ireland, even if they identify as Irish, by promoting a narrative which implies identity and nationality are not synonymous, an absurd assertion when considering the language of the internationally binding treaty would-in their interpretation - grant citizens a right to ‘feel’ Irish rather than ‘be’ Irish.

“We had hoped our legal challenge could help right that wrong and force the British government to amend statute to fall in line with its international obligations. But legally, with this concession from the Home Office, we regrettably can not proceed.”

DeSouza, according to the journal.ie report, said the 'We Are Irish Too' campaign would continue to push for “full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement including our right to be accepted as Irish or British or both."

She continued: “We will continue to work with political parties across Northern Ireland, civil society, and rights organizations, along with the Irish government, who have long supported us in this fight, as well as members of Congress in the United States, to see the work of the Good Friday Agreement complete. We are not giving up."