The applicant was a non-Irish national infant, born in Ireland. Application for asylum was made on her behalf and a negative recommendation was made by the Refugee Applications Commissioner. Judicial review proceedings were instituted to challenge that and the Commissioner successfully issued a motion to have them dismissed as being bound to fail, reliance being placed on case law indicating that an applicant should appeal a decision of the Commissioner to the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. The applicant appealed against that to the Supreme Court.
Whilst the appeal was pending, she also proceeded with an appeal she had lodged to the Tribunal, and when that was refused, applied for subsidiary protection.
The Supreme Court asked to be addressed on two issues: first, whether, by proceeding to a conclusion with her appeal before the Tribunal, the applicant had rendered the appeal moot; and, secondly, on the scope of the anonymity granted to applicants for asylum under s. 19 of the Refugee Act 1996.
The Supreme Court decided that the applicant’s appeal was moot and that persons who had applied for asylum were granted anonymity in that regard by s. 19 of the Refugee Act 1996 which extended beyond the determination of their claims, irrespective of the outcome.
The Supreme Court pointed out that the appeal to the Tribunal was a full re-hearing, and that it could make such findings of fact and law as were appropriate. The result of the appeal could be the affirmation of the Commissioner’s decision in whole or in part or, indeed, its rejection. The appeal overturned the record of what had been decided by the Commissioner, save and insofar as on appeal it was affirmed. In the instant case, the court noted that the Tribunal had made findings of fact against the applicant and had affirmed the Commissioner’s decision.
The court also held that persons who applied for asylum in the State were entitled to anonymity under s. 19 of the Refugee Act 1996, subject to ss. 9(15) and 26. Whilst noting that s. 19 of the Act of 1996 should be given as narrow an interpretation as its wording required consistent with Article 34.1, it observed that the definition of who was an “applicant” for refugee status was surprisingly wide, being defined as “a person who has made an application for a declaration under section 8” of the Act of 1996 and being unlimited as to time or as to the result of the application. It held that the plain and unambiguous result of the wording was that once a person had applied for refugee status, he retained anonymity with regard to any litigation relevant thereto in perpetuity. Should there be unrelated litigation, such as in connection with an accident, that protection remained and, whilst the tort case might be reported normally, any mention of any prior failed application for refugee status could not.
The court therefore dismissed the proceedings on the basis that they were moot.