The first-named plaintiff was a native of China who arrived in Ireland in 1978. As a result of what was described as a “serious incident” in 1979 he was informed by the Department of Justice that he would have to leave the country. Later that year he married the second named plaintiff and they subsequently had three children and at the time of the hearing in the High Court, his wife was expecting a fourth child. No steps were taken by the authorities on foot of the earlier indication that he should leave the country and he was in fact given permits by the Department of Labour allowing him to continue to work. When in 1981 he applied to the Minister for a certificate of naturalisation and made an application for permission to carry on business as a self employed person, however, the Minister refused both applications.
The Minister then informed the Plaintiff that he would have to leave the country but allowed him a stay of a further three months to enable him to prepare for departure. The plaintiffs brought legal proceedings and sought declarations that the second-named plaintiff (the first-named Plaintiff’s wife) had a right under Article 41 of the Constitution to have her family unit protected and in particular, to be allowed to cohabit with her husband and to reside within the State. They also sought a declaration that the first-named plaintiff, as the lawful spouse of the second-named plaintiff and father of the third and fourth-named plaintiffs (the children), was entitled to the protection of the Constitution and in particular, the provisions of Articles 9.
The Court held that the plaintiffs were not entitled to the declarations sought and stated that the rights given to the family were not absolute. The Court stated that restrictions are permitted by law as when, for example, parents of families are imprisoned and that these restrictions were permitted for the common good.