The applicants were Iraqi nationals. The first named applicant was retired and his wife, the second named applicant, was a teacher. They sought visas from the Minister for Justice to enter Ireland to visit their son, a naturalised Irish citizen. Their application was refused. They unsuccessfully appealed the refusal. The Minister affirmed it and held that their obligations to return to Iraq were insufficient and that they might overstay if granted visas.
The applicants obtained leave to challenge the decision on inter alia the basis that the short-form reasons given were inadequate, unreasonable, irrational and lacked an evidential basis.
The High Court held that the decision was not void for uncertainty, in that the reasons were given. However, it decided to quash the decision on the basis that they were inadequate.
It noted that the Minister had raised a number of concerns about the applicants’ intentions to return to Iraq. To begin with, the first applicant had relied on the existence of an Iraqi pension as constituting a reason for him to return there. The Minister contended that the frequency of the pension payments was unclear and that no accounts or financial information had been furnished in that regard. Secondly, the Minister contended that the first named applicant had failed to provide a letter concerning his pension containing full contact details for verification purposes. Thirdly, the Minister pointed to a concern over the permanency of the second named applicant’s employment as a teacher. Fourthly, doubts were expressed over the applicants’ alleged ownership of land in Iraq. The court noted that this could have been pursued with the applicants if it had been intended to refuse their application by reference to it.
The High Court quashed the decisions for inadequacy of reasons, pointing to the extent to which counsel for the Minister had sought to justify the refusals by reference to matters which had not been expressed in the impugned decisions as underpinning the short-form reasons which had been given.
It held that the brevity of the reasons given rendered it difficult for the court to understand the basis for the decision and, therefore, to exercise its jurisdiction as to whether the determination was unreasonable within the meaning of the test for unreasonableness in Irish law.
In particular, it held that it was not possible on the basis of the course of correspondence or the material submitted to ascertain from the course of dealing between the parties or the context in which the decision was made, what the shortcomings in proofs were and consequently, whether the conclusion reached in respect of the applicants was reasonable.
It cautioned, however, that it was not to be taken as condemning the use of short-form reasons in such decisions, as the sheer volume of applications submitted for visas suggested that such an approach might well be prudent in most cases.
However, the reasons given had to be clear and cogent, and give the applicants such information as was necessary to enable them to consider whether they had a reasonable chance of appeal or judicially reviewing the decision. In the instant case, it was not possible to determine accurately what the reasons meant in the context of the particular case, or to divine from them why the application had been refused. If the Minister had concerns about a particular aspect of the application, then it could have been raised by letter, telephone call or email, thus obviating the need to take the proceedings.
The court accordingly quashed the refusal decision.