The applicant was an Iranian national who arrived in the State in October 1989 and was granted refugee status in December 2001. He had made four previous applications for a certificate of naturalisation under the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 (as amended). His fifth application for naturalisation was refused by the Minister by decision of 1 September 2014. The submission prepared for the Minister recommended that the application be refused on the basis that the Minister could not have confidence in the appellant’s declaration of fidelity and loyalty or undertaking to faithfully observe the laws of the State and could not be satisfied that the appellant met the condition of good character. This recommendation was based on a report which was not disclosed on the basis that “[t]he State’s interest in protecting its security in international relations must in this case outweigh the applicant’s interest in knowing the Minister’s specific basis for refusing him this privilege”. The applicant challenged this decision, arguing that the Minister was obliged to at least give him the gist of the information which formed the basis for the refusal.
The High Court (Stewart J.) ( IEHC 408) refused the reliefs sought and held that the interests of national security constituted a legitimate justification for the decision of the Minister not to issue reasons for her decision. The Court of Appeal (Peart, Hogan and Gilligan JJ.) ( IECA 112) upheld the decision of the High Court.
By determination dated 25 September 2018 ( IESCDET 131) the Supreme Court granted leave to the appellant to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court held that there is a duty on public law decision makers to justify a decision not to disclose detailed reasons, following Mallak v Minister for Justice  3 I.R. 29;  1 I.L.R.M. 73. The primary objective should be to seek the maximum disclosure that was possible, and to ensure that, in so far as possible, any restriction on disclosure of reasons was demonstrably the least that was necessary. The Supreme Court was satisfied that it was at least possible to put in place an enhanced process whereby an independent assessment could be made as to whether any version of privileged information relied on in refusing an application for naturalisation, could be provided in a way which would not affect State interests to the extent that disclosure should not be required at all.
Decision: Appeal allowed.