Anurag Deb: Identity: Northern Ireland’s Gordian Knot

UK Constitutional Law Association

On 14 October 2019, the Upper Tribunal (UT) handed down judgment in SSHD v De Souza, immediately dividing commentators both in and outside Northern Ireland. Briefly, the UT had heard the Home Secretary’s appeal against the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) decision which had declared that the American claimant (respondent in the UT) was entitled to apply to reside in Northern Ireland under the EU Citizen’s Directive because his wife was permitted to self-identify as an Irish national in accordance with the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA). British nationality, the FTT declared, could not be “imposed” on her at birth, flying in the face of the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA), section 1 of which, it was argued, does precisely that. The UT allowed the appeal and overturned the FTT judgment, revealing a tension which goes far beyond immigration law.

Constitutional
logic

The claimant’s case involved a…

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