Family rights and reverse discrimination: the impact of EU law on cohabiting couples in the Irish immigration system

Date01 January 2011
AuthorAnna Hickey And Ruth Ní Fhíonnán
Family Rights and Reverse Discrimination:
Cohabiting Couples in the Irish Immigration
System and the Impact of EU Law
The treatment of cohabiting couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex, in the
context of immigration in Ireland is a matter of current concern. According
to the latest published census, cohabiting couples now make up 11.6 per cent
of all family units in Ireland1and, between 1996 and 2006, there was almost
a four-fold rise in the number of unmarried couples livin g together.2In the
same period, there has also been an un precedented increa se in the number
of immigrants coming to Ireland. For example, in 2008 alone, 83,800 people
migrated to Irela nd.3Despite media r eports that migrants are returning
home as a result of the economic downtown4, l atest figures5highligh t that
at the end of 2010 there were 383,400 foreign nationals in Ireland over the
age of fifteen, representing 10.91 per cent of the population of 3,512,200.
At present, cohabiting couples are treated less favourably than married
couples in a range of areas: for example, they have fewer p roperty and
succession rights an d are u nable to claim certain tax and socia l welfare
benefits.6There is also a marked difference in treatment of Irish cohabiting
couples vis-à-vis cohabiting couples where one or both partners is an
immigrant. We will explore th is difference in treatme nt in this article. We
will further examine how immigrant cohabita nts are treated differently in
Ireland, depending on whether the immigrant’s situation falls within the
scope of EU law. It will be argued that the position under immigration law
is more favourable for cohabiting partners of non-Irish EU citizens than for
the cohabiting partners of Irish citizens, in a purely internal situation.7This
1“Law needs to be mindful of cohabiting couples” The Irish Times 27 March 2008
2Editorial, “Cohabiting Couples” The Irish Times 7 April 2010
3http:// eleasesp ublicati ons/docu ments/po pulatio n/curren t/popmig .pdf
[Accessed 13 March 2011]
4 k/world/2008/may /04/ireland.immig ration [Accessed 29
March 2011]
5Quarterly National Household Survey (Fourth Quarter) Report [Accessed
29 March 2011]
6Law Reform Commission “Consultation Paper on the Rights and Duties of Cohabitees”
April 2004
7Cohabiting partners of EU citizens can generally avail of the residency rights provided
for in Directive 2004/38/EC. As discussed in more detail below, unless an Irish citizen
HJ 06:Layout 1 01/07/2011 17:10 Page 172

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT