22:39 GMT +312 November 2019
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    Emma DeSouza (pictured with her husband Jake) is taking the Home Office to the Court of Appeal over her Irish identity

    Woman Pledges To Take Legal Battle ‘To Be Irish’ All the Way to the UK Supreme Court

    © Photo : Emma DeSouza
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    The Good Friday Agreement enshrined the right of people in Northern Ireland to identify as British or Irish or both. But one woman’s battle to allow her US husband to settle in Northern Ireland has thrown the issue into stark relief.

    A Belfast coffee shop worker is planning to go to the Court of Appeal after an immigration tribunal ruled last week that anyone born in Northern Ireland is a British citizen, whether or not they identify as Irish.

    Emma DeSouza, 31, said the ruling contradicted the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought to an end almost 30 years of armed conflict in the six counties of the north of Ireland.

     Mrs DeSouza said: “The peace is very fragile. It’s very risky for the peace process and it’s very arrogant of the Home Office to say that all people in Northern Ireland are British even if they identify as Irish. Irish people are going to think the Good Friday Agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”

    ​Mrs DeSouza met her husband Jake, an American musician, in Los Angeles in 2014 and they married in Belfast the following year.

    They decided to settle in Northern Ireland and began applying for him to get permanent residency but were told by the Home Office Mrs DeSouza - who comes from Magherafelt and has an Irish passport - was considered British.

    Last week the Republic of Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney raised the matter with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith and tweeted that the law did not appear to be “consistent” with the Good Friday Agreement.

    ​Mrs DeSouza had applied under freedom of movement rules which allow third country spouses of EU citizens to live with their partners in an EU member state without going through normal immigration channels.

    The Home Office told her she would first have to “renounce her status as a British citizen.”

    She originally won her case at an immigration and asylum tribunal in February 2018, which ruled that under the Good Friday Agreement people in Northern Ireland had special rights.

    Mrs DeSouza said: “I grew up under the Good Friday Agreement. I enjoyed this idea that we had equality. That we were Irish or British nationals. People could move on with their lives and what is very upsetting to me is that the Good Friday Agreement was never made into legislation. I cherish the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process and Brexit is a really damaging process.”

    ​“We identify as Irish and you have to go through a bureaucratic process, which is quite traumatic, to access your rights,” said Mrs DeSouza, who said she was not entitled to legal aid and was struggling to pay her legal bills.

    But she is determined to appeal her case right up to the UK Supreme Court if necessary and believes the government needs to introduce legislation to fully implement the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.

    ​The Home Office won an appeal at the upper tribunal on October 14 when immigration judges said: “As a matter of law, Mrs DeSouza is at present a British citizen in the current time.”

    The Home Office told the Guardian: “The Home Office is absolutely committed to upholding the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement. We respect the right of the people of Northern Ireland to choose to identify as British or Irish or both and their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship. We are pleased that the upper tribunal agree that UK nationality law is consistent with the Belfast agreement.”

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    Brexit, Good Friday Agreement, Belfast, Northern Ireland
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