A seven-year-old girl has begun a legal challenge against a decision to refuse her Irish citizenship on the basis of her father's criminal convictions.

The girl's parents are from outside the European Union and are separated following a violent assault by the girl's father on her mother, after which the mother fled their home and sought refuge.

The court heard the mother says her husband prevented her from regularising her own immigration status.

The father's convictions are for traffic and public order offences, as well as a conviction for the assault.

The court heard the father submitted an application for citizenship on his own behalf and on behalf of the little girl, despite the fact that she was not living with him.

Both applications were rejected on the grounds of the father's bad character.

The girl's lawyers say the girl's application was rejected because her father was not of good character and no attempt was made to independently assess her application on its own merits.

They want the decision quashed and they say the relevant legislation should not be interpreted in this way, or it should be declared to be unconstitutional.

Senior Counsel Siobhan Phelan said to make the outcome of the girl's application dependent on her father's character was "farcical".

The challenge is being opposed by lawyers for the Minister for Justice and Equality, who denies that there has been any breach of fair procedures.

The challenge is being heard by Mr Justice David Keane, who remarked that "all children" were of good character.