Duty To Give Reasons For Administrative Decisions

Mallak v. Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform [2012] IESC 59; (Supreme Court, 6 December 2012, Fennelly J delivering judgment for the Court)

On 6 December 2012, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of Cooke J in the High Court and quashed a decision of the Minister for Justice refusing to grant the Applicant a certificate of naturalisation, due to the failure of the Respondent Minister to give reasons for his decision. The decision of the Supreme Court is a ground‐breaking one in circumstances where numerous previous decisions of the High Court on the issue had found that the Minister for Justice was not obliged to provide reasons to explain decisions in relation to the grant or refusal of certificates of naturalisation, in spite of the fact that the only successful challenges to such decisions on judicial review had occurred where reasons had been provided (Abuissa v. Minister for Justice [2011] 1 IR 123; Mallak v. Minister for Justice [2011] IEHC 306; Pok Sun Shum v. Ireland [1986] ILRM 593). Furthermore, while the Supreme Court did not go so far as to state that there exists a general duty on administrative decision makers to disclose the reasons for decisions affecting the rights and obligations of individuals, in delivering judgment for the Court, Fennelly J made a number of compelling statements that provide strong endorsement for the existence of such a duty in virtually all cases.

The Applicant in this case was a Syrian national, who had arrived in Ireland with his wife in 2002. Both had applied for, and were granted, refugee status in November 2002 and had subsequently applied for certificates of naturalisation, with a view to obtaining citizenship in Ireland. In 2008, the Applicant's wife was granted a certificate of naturalisation, however, his application was refused without reason.

The Applicant initially sought to be provided with reasons for the decision pursuant to the statutory entitlement provided in Section 18 of the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003. However, the Minister refused to provide reasons pursuant to the exemption provided at Section 18(2)(b) of those Acts. This refusal was upheld by the Office of the Information Commissioner on appeal; although the Information Commissioner acknowledged that the circumstances were such that the Applicant was left none the wiser as to why his naturalisation request and subsequent request for reasons were refused.

Rather than appeal the decision of the...

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