A Kenyan professional footballer has failed in a High Court challenge over his efforts to come and live in Ireland and continue a long-term relationship with the daughter of an Irishman who set up a charity in Kenya.
Paul Kiongera, who has played for a number of Kenyan clubs, is in a relationship with Triona Sheehy, daughter of Kerry native Eddie Sheehy who set up a charity to provide third-level education for Kenyan students.
He and Ms Sheehy brought the legal challenge against the Minister for Justice seeking to overturn a finding in his visa refusal that he also could not apply for a visa for another five years. The prohibition came into operation from the date of the refusal decision, June 23 last year.
The court heard Mr Kiongera and Ms Sheehy first met Kenya in 2012 when he was assisting her father in his charity work in his capacity as a footballer.
They remained in regular contact following her return to Ireland and she subsequently spent four summers in Kenya and later moved there to work in a primary school in Nairobi. He first visited Ireland in December 2017 as part of a visit by his country's football team for the under-20s World Cup.
However, the court heard a false passport was used in that visit in which he gave a different first name and birth date. He was actually 22 at the time.
He came for a six-week visit in August 2019 and returned and by then the couple's plans were for him to seek to come and live more permanently here. He arrived at Dublin Airport on November 17/18, 2019, when he was denied entry after it was discovered the passport he was travelling on had different details to those which appeared on a previous visa application.
He was also told he would be precluded from applying for a visa again for five years. He appealed the five-year preclusion element to the Minister.
While accepting it was wrong for him to have relied on a false passport, he argued the mitigating circumstances were that he was not the person who had obtained that passport, or devised the idea, or brought it to finality with the issuing of the passport.
It was submitted on his behalf that the Minister should take into account the gravity of the consequences of the refusal of the application and to “assess the level of culpability" of Mr Kiongera in the procurement of the passport with false details.
The Minister rejected his appeal and he brought judicial review proceedings specifically challenging the five-year prohibition on applying for a visa again.
It was argued, among other things, there was simply no reason given for imposing the maximum preclusion period of five years and that his mitigating circumstances were not properly engaged with. The Minister opposed the proceedings.
It was argued the officer who heard his appeal believed the facts were sufficiently grave to warrant the imposition of the five-year period and in circumstances where multiple instances of false information being supplied had been set out.
In his judgment rejecting Mr Kiongera's case, Mr Justice Cian Ferriter said it could not be said his specific case in relation to the five-year preclusion condition was not engaged with or that reasons were not provided by the decision-maker for refusing his appeal against the maximum five-year preclusion condition.
There is no question but that the appeal decision contained a reasoned rejection of his appeal grounds relating to the imposition of the five-year condition, he said.
The judge also did not see that the law on reasons requires the Minister, in the context of an ex gratia, non-statutory scheme relating to persons who enjoy no Irish, EU or European Convention rights per se, to expressly spell out in an appeal decision why a lesser period of preclusion was considered inappropriate on the facts of the case.
The substance of his case was clearly engaged with and rejected on a reasoned basis in the appeal decision. He refused the reliefs sought.