The Applicant was an Iraqi who had been refused refugee status but granted leave to remain in the State in May 1997. He applied to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform under section 14 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act, 1956 (as amended) for a declaration of naturalisation as an Irish citizen. His application was refused by the Minister under section 15 of the Act. The Minister relied on the ‘absolute discretion’ conferred on him by the Act and gave no reason for his refusal of the Applicant’s application. The Applicant sought leave to challenge the Minister’s decision by way of judicial review.
The High Court found that the conferral of citizenship is a function of the sovereignty of the State and that no non-national has any right to Irish citizenship. Under the statutory regime, the Minister, in exercise of the function delegated to him by the Oireachtas, has an ‘absolute discretion’ as to whether or not to accord the privilege of citizenship to non-nationals. The Court found that ‘absolute discretion’ means exactly what it says and that even where all of the conditions stipulated in section 15 of the 1956 Act are manifestly complied with, the Minister may refuse the certificate and to do so over and over again. The Court held that the Minister was under no obligation to give any reason for a refusal of a certificate of naturalisation in any case in which he relied on his absolute discretion. To require the Minister always to state a reason would be to deprive section 15 of the 1956 Act of its meaning and effect. The Court found that no arguable case could be made that a refusal to grant a certificate of naturalisation is tainted by illegality by reason only of the fact that it one of a series of refusals for which no reason has ever been given. For these reasons, the Court refused the Applicant leave seek judicial review of the Minister’s decision.