Video: Julian Smith does not rule out amendments to British Nationality Act after DeSouza case is raised
Secretary of State Julian Smith has not ruled out amendments to the British Nationality Act 1981 to bring it in line with the Good Friday Agreement after the case of County Derry woman Emma DeSouza was raised at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee this morning.
Ms. DeSouza has been in a long-running battle with the British Home Office to try to secure her rights as an Irish and EU citizen.
However, last week she lost a Home Office appeal against a ruling that had previously declared in her favour by concluding that people born in the North were not automatically British.
A tribunal found that while the Magherafelt woman was an Irish citizen under the terms of the GFA she was also automatically British under the BNA 1981.
Today the Secretary of State indicated that he was willing to review the situation and did not rule out seeking amendments to the BNA in order to align it with the GFA.
Independent Unionist MP Sylvia Hermon asked: "Is there an intention of government to amend the nationality act?"
Mr. Smith replied: "There is an intention from me as Secretary of State for NI to make sure that we deliver on those commitments [of the GFA] and also the Home Office is right to make sure it is preserving all the things it is responsible for."
The DeSouza case was initially raised this morning by the Labour MP Conor McGinn, who asked Mr. Smith: "Is it your understanding that the GFA makes provisions for people in NI to be Irish or British or both?
He replied: "Absolutely. Yes. And what I was going on to say, whatever the details of this case or others that are taking place, delivering on these commitments of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, for me as Secretary of State, will be a priority, are a priority.
"The previous Prime Minister [Theresa May] instigated a review. I have been and will continue to push the Home Office, to encourage the Home Secretary, and to be absolutely clear with everyone, that we need change and we need that change to happen rapidly.
"Citizenship is very clear in that document and that agreement and we will deliver on it."
Mr. McGinn responded: "I think that's very reassuring and very helpful. Just to be clear. It's your understanding [that] the Irish or British or both in the agreement applies to citizenship and not just identity?"
The Secretary of State said: "It is my understanding that we have work to do to make sure that we deliver on the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
"There clearly are immigration-related issues which the Home Office quite rightly are responsible for but as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland I want to make sure that that agreement is delivered in full for Northern Ireland citizens."