The first-named applicant applied to the Minister for permission to remain in the State on foot of his marriage to the second-named applicant, an Irish citizen. Upon receipt of the application, the Minister’s office notified the applicant that such applications for residency in the State were taking approximately 12 to 14 months to process. Subsequently, the Minister indicated that the process was taking in the region of 11 months. The applicants sought, inter alia, an order compelling the Minister to determine the application within a reasonable amount of time and damages for breach of their constitutional and ECHR rights.
In refusing the relief sought, the Court found that an entitlement to a prompt decision is an aspect of constitutional justice, that substantive fairness includes a duty not to delay in making a decision to the prejudice of fundamental rights and that, where there has been a delay, that the factors relevant to a consideration of whether a delay is so unreasonable or unconscionable as to constitute a breach of fundamental rights include:
- the period of delay,
- the complexity of the issues to be considered,
- the amount of information to be gathered,
- the reasons advanced for the time taken and
- the likely prejudice to the applicant.
The Court found that six months was an appropriate period for the gathering of information and the making of enquiries and that having regard to the complexity of the issues for consideration, the Minister’s duty to consider the application judicially and the imperative of promptitude in order to minimise prejudice, a further three to six months would be reasonable for the decision-making process itself and that if an applicant were kept waiting for a decision longer than twelve months the Court would have no hesitation in finding the delay to be unconscionable. The Court held that the Minister was not therefore in breach of the instant applicants’ rights in requiring them to wait for a period of a minimum of eleven months.