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Irish government urged to intervene in case of US man held 'hostage' in North over wife's refusal to be British

Jake DeSouza and wife Emma. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Paul Ainsworth

The case of a US man held ‘hostage' in Northern Ireland over his wife's refusal to declare British citizenship has been raised in the Irish Senate.

Jake DeSouza has been unable to leave the North since 2015 when he submitted his American passport to the UK Home Office while applying for a residency visa following his wedding to wife Emma.

The Irish News reported last week how Emma (29), of Magherafelt Co Derry, was told she could not apply for 28-year-old Jake to live in the UK as the spouse of an Irish national, because she was born in the UK and the application would need to be made with her assuming British citizenship.

However, Ms DeSouza is refusing to claim British nationality, insisting the demand by the Home Office contradicts her right to identify as Irish under the Good Friday Agreement.

Ms DeSouza previously told the Irish News that she was also refusing to officially renounce British citizenship as she was “never British in the first place”.

Jake, who hails from Los Angeles, is unable to tour with his band following the signing of a record deal, while he has also been forced to miss family funerals due to being unable to travel until the matter is resolved and his passport returned.

Now Sinn Féin senator Niall Ó Donnghaile has called on the UK Immigration and Visa Department to “end its attempt to impose British nationality” on Emma.

"She defines herself as an Irish national only,” Mr Ó Donnghaile told Seanad Éireann yesterday.

"This is a matter of some significance because the Good Friday Agreement, which is endorsed by the Irish and British governments, makes it clear that people born in the north can “identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may choose and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both Irish and British citizenship is accepted by both governments.”

"This is a matter for the Irish government as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and it is also a matter for the British government because one of its departments is deliberately or unintentionally misreading the Good Friday Agreement.”

Senator Ó Donnghaile called for Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney to intervene, and said he would write to him over the issue.

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