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Citizenship campaigner Emma De Souza in Birmingham

Rosie Keane from the embassy of Ireland, Emma De Souza, Terri Lynk, Birmingham Irish Association Trustee Caroline Brogan and Birmingham Irish Association CEO Maurice Malone.

By Annie Driver

Emma De Souza delivered a talk in St. Anne’s in Birmingham on Wednesday, outlining her ongoing legal case.  The talk covered three overarching themes: the ongoing legal challenge and Brexit, and the British governments interaction with these two points.

Emma, an Irish citizen by ‘law, passport and virtue’ was born in Derry, Northern Ireland and under Article One of the Good Friday Agreement, has the birth right to be recognised as British, Irish or both.  Yet, in 2015, when Emma married her husband and applied for a residence card for her husband Jake De Souza, they were told by the Home Office she could not identify as exclusively Irish which has raised issues surrounding the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

This has set dangerous legal precedents on three grounds; the absence of birth right provisions as stipulated in Article One of Good Friday Agreement, the UK law trumps agreement and the loss of freedom of movement.  Brexit has further complicated such issues as the Common Travel Area is not legally enforced which means Irish citizens are not fully protected from deportation: ‘It does not have a legal base which is a cause of concern in the current climate as we face the biggest change to immigration rules’.

Emma believes the ‘British government are not interested in trying to resolve issues’ but has the ‘backing and support from American and Irish governments.  She feels supported by Simon Coveney and the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar which is a ‘big deal for us as a family’.  Sinn Fein has also been supportive of the case from day one and critical of current government funding for the case.

In her recent visit to Congress she met Hilary Clinton who has recently taken the position of chancellor at Queen’s University in Belfast and Emma described her as ‘Good humoured and a sweetheart’ who is ‘interested in the Good Friday Agreement and pursuing issues surrounding it’.  US support is strong and while Trump is attempting to liaise with Johnson Emma believes ‘The Irish element is large within congress’.

Boris Johnson’s majority Conservative government recently introduced new immigration policy which Emma describes as the ‘biggest change to immigration rules this week’.  Emma has witnessed a change in attitude towards citizenship as seen with the Windrush generation and is wary of the ‘weaponizing of citizenship to make it political’.  Emma feels there is a ‘disconnect with the Conservative Party and the Good Friday Agreement which was signed under Labour leadership’.

Making the journey to Birmingham to advocate for her campaign she said we must be ‘prepared for whatever comes out of the Government and support each other and stay informed’.

Caroline Brogan, Trustee of Birmingham Irish Association made a point about financial challenges and legal aid for the case as the DeSouzas have been relying on a crowd funding page and fundraising to raise money for legal fees “Funding denied, is justice denied. If the Rule of Law means anything, then ordinary people should have access to justice’

Irish diplomat Rosie Keane from The Irish Embassy in London encouraged anyone who has any anxieties surrounding Brexit and their citizenship status to seek advice and support from their services and stressed that ‘our rights remain unchanged’.

  • This report was amended in Friday 21 February to correct accidental misattributions and minor factual errors in the original report.
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