Kareem v The Minister for Justice and Equality

CourtHigh Court
JudgeMr Justice David Keane
Judgment Date23 March 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] IEHC 200
Docket Number[2017 No. 157 JR]
Date23 March 2018

[2018] IEHC 200



Keane J.

[2017 No. 157 JR]


Asylum, Immigration & Nationality – Order of certiorari – S. 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 – Certificate of naturalisation – S. 56 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 – Irrational decision – Ground of good character.

Facts: The applicant sought an order of certiorari for quashing the decision of the respondent for refusing to grant a certificate of naturalisation to the applicant under s. 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956. The applicant contended that the decision of the respondent was irrational, erroneous in law and failed to provide fair procedures. The respondent had given the reason for refusal to grant a certificate of naturalisation that it was not satisfied that the applicant was a person of good character as he was charged with driving a motor vehicle in a public place without insurance, which was a serious crime.

Mr. Justice David Keane refused to grant the relief sought by the applicant. The Court held that the applicant had failed to establish any breach of his entitlement to natural and constitutional justice, fair procedures or equality of treatment. The Court found that the respondent's decision was neither irrational nor vitiated by any error of law.

Ex tempore JUDGMENT of Mr Justice David Keane delivered on 23 March 2018

This judgment is given ex tempore in accordance with the principles summarised by Humphreys J in Walsh v Walsh (No. 1) (Unreported, High Court, 2 February, 2017), [2017] IEHC 181 and, in particular, subject to the safeguard described by Munby LJ in In re A. and L. (Children) [2011] EWCA Civ. 1611 (at para. 47) and noted by Humphreys J (at paras. 15-16) whereby the parties will have the ability and, indeed, the duty to seek further elaboration or explanation from the court if they feel that something is missing.


The applicant ("Mr Kareem") seeks, principally, an order of certiorari quashing the decision of the respondent ("the Minister"), dated 30 January 2017, refusing to grant him a certificate of naturalisation under s. 15 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, as amended ("the Act of 1956"), because the Minister was not satisfied that Mr Kareem, who had recently driven a motor vehicle in a public place without insurance, was a person of good character. In addition, Mr Kareem seeks an order of mandamus compelling the Minister to re-consider his application for naturalisation and a declaration that the Minister's decision was "disproportionate and unfair and offended basic fair procedures".


Mr Kareem was given leave to seek certiorari of the said decision by Order of Noonan J made on 27 February 2017.


The essential facts are these. Mr Kareem applied for naturalisation on 22 September 2014.


In an undated letter that was received by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service ("INIS") of the Department of Justice on 3 December 2015, Mr Kareem stated in material part:

"I am writing in regards to my recent update concerning my application for my citizenship as I recently got a letter to provide details regarding my court date on 25/06/2014 in Tralee, Co. Kerry.

The offence was I had no insurance the result of the court case was a strike out meaning no convictions no further action. I got a poor box fine of €1,000 which was paid in full to the courts. I have attached a copy of the receipt with this current letter and I just want to point out that when making my application I also attached a copy of the receipt with find paid and an explanation.

I do regret the decision to drive without insurance even if it was out for [a] few days I had to take my little boy to school and the weather was very bad. I sincerely hope this will not affect my application for my citizenship."


The INIS wrote to Mr Kareem on 30 January 2017, stating that the Minister, having considered his application, was not satisfied that he was a person of good character and had decided not to grant him a certificate of naturalisation for that reason.


A copy of the submission on Mr Kareem's application, prepared by the INIS for the Minister's consideration, with the Minister's decision annotated upon it, was enclosed with that notification for Mr Kareem's information.


That submission states in material part:

"Comments: Sulaimon Kareem has come to the attention of An Garda Síochána in respect of a no insurance offence. The court outcome was a strike out and a poor box fine of €1,000. The poor box fine imposed was paid. Please see attached copy of Garda Report and letter of explanation from the applicant.


Recommendation: Although the Garda Report states the no insurance conviction has been struck out, given that he did drive with no insurance, and given the recency of the offence, I am not satisfied that the applicant is of good character and I would not recommend the Minister grant a certificate of naturalisation in this case."


The attached Garda Report did indeed record that Mr Kareem had appeared before Tralee District Court on 25 June 2014 charged with an offence of using a motor vehicle without insurance, contrary to s. 56 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, as amended, which charge was struck out after he made a payment into the court poor box of €1,000.


i. the statutory requirement of good character


Section 15 of the Act of 1956 provides in material part as follows:

"(1) Upon receipt of an application for a certificate of naturalisation, the Minister may, in his absolute discretion, grant the application if satisfied that the applicant-


(b) is of good character


ii. the meaning of "good character" properly construed


In Hussain v. Minister for Justice [2013] 3 I.R. 257, Hogan J explained (at 263):

"[14] There is no settled or fixed interpretation of the words 'good character'. Applying the standard principle of noscitur a sociis, these words accordingly take their meaning according to the relevant statutory context and general objects of the legislation: see, e.g., the comments of Henchy J. in Dillon v. Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (Unreported, Supreme Court, 3rd June, 1981). It is implicit from the general tenor of s. 15 that the section is designed to empower the Minister to grant naturalisation to persons who have resided here for an appreciable period of time and who intend to do so in the future. Furthermore, the fact that s. 15(e) requires the applicant to make a declaration - generally in open court before a judge of the District Court - of 'fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State' suggests that such a person must be prepared to make a public commitment that they will discharge ordinary civic duties and responsibilities, given that the these words are themselves borrowed directly from Article 9.2 of the Constitution of Ireland 1937.


It is against this background that the words 'good character' must be understood and measured. Viewed in this statutory context, it means that the applicant's character and conduct must measure up to reasonable standards of civic responsibility as gauged by reference to contemporary values. The Minister cannot, for example, demand that applicants meet some exalted standard of behaviour which would not realistically be expected of their Irish counterparts. Nor can the Minister impose his or her own private standard of morality which is isolated from contemporary values."

iii. the scope of the Minister's discretion under s. 15 of the Act of 1956


In A.M.A. v Minister for Justice and Equality [2016] IEHC 466, Humphreys J succinctly summarised the scope of the Minister's discretion in the following way:

"23. The 1956 Act describes the Minister's discretion as ' absolute' (s. 15(1)), which means not literally unconstrained but as absolute as it is possible to be in a system based on the rule of law. In practice this is a very wide discretion: see A.B. v. Minister for Justice, Equality and law Reform [2009] IEHC 449 per Cooke J. at para. 19; Tabi v. Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform [2010] IEHC 109 (Unreported, High Court, Cooke J., 16th April, 2010); M.A.D. v. Minister for Justice and Equality [2015] IEHC 446 (Unreported, High Court, Stewart J., 14th July, 2015).

24. It is clear that in public law decisions, the extent of natural justice varies according to context (see my decision in Z.K. v. Reception and Integration Agency [2016] IEHC 20 (Unreported, High Court, 15th January, 2016), and that of Noonan J. in Hosford v. Minister for Social Protection [2015] IEHC 59 (Unreported, High Court, 6th February, 2015)). It is not a 'one size fits all' doctrine. While some decisions, such as a conviction in the criminal process, or interference in the relationship between a parent and child, require the dial to be turned up to the maximum in terms of natural justice and fair procedures, other decisions involve a lower standard and indeed some decisions, such as the adoption of legislative measures, 'political questions' or the exercise of managerial authority, do not attract fair procedures in any meaningful sense at all.

25. Naturalisation is a privilege and not a right. For many centuries, such decisions were reserved to the legislature. Obviously, fair procedures do not apply to a sovereign decision to decline to enact a particular piece of legislation. Schedule 2 to the Statute Law Revision Act 2009 and Sch. 2 to the Statute Law Revision Act 2012 list several hundred such naturalisation Acts enacted between 1558 and 1896. Thereafter, the grant of naturalisation has been an executive function, with only minimal regulation by the legislature.

26. While of course reasons for an adverse executive decision on naturalisation must be provided ( Mallak v. Minister for Justice, Equality and...

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2 cases
  • Talla v The Minister for Justice & Equality
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 12 May 2020
    ...appearance is mandatory, and upon conviction certain penalties are mandatory. See for example Keane J. in Kareem v. Minister for Justice [2018] IEHC 200 – where the applicant had a conviction for driving without insurance. In Hussein v MJLER [2015] IESC 104 the Minister had refused an appli......
  • M.N.N v The Minister for Justice & Equality
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 13 July 2020
    ...offences, particularly, where the offences are at the more serious end of the spectrum (see, for example, Kareem v. Minister for Justice [2018] IEHC 200, where the applicant was convicted for driving without insurance and Zaigham v. Minister for Justice [2017] IEHC 630, where the applicant ......

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