Taking an oath of citizenship for another country
Moving to Canada has been a ten-year process for Shane Morris, which is finally complete today
I have been dreading today for years. Ever since arriving in Canada, I always knew the day could come when I would have to take the Oath of Canadian citizenship. While having to ‘bear true allegiance’ to the Queen Elizabeth (as opposed to the country of Canada itself) would be difficult for many, the actual feeling of dread comes from knowing my process of leaving Ireland is formally over.
I left Ireland a decade ago, but in my mind it was a process. The physical move was just one part. Yes, I had indeed left Ireland in body, but my heart and soul were still there and while steps remained outstanding in the immigration process I felt I hadn’t completely left Ireland yet. This was supported by constant efforts to stay connected to Ireland: many trips back, Facebook primarily used to keep in touch with those back home (yes, home), Skype is a blessing, and a bedtime routine rooted in the habitual online reading of the freshly published Irish Times before dropping off to sleep.
I do dream of returning to Ireland to live. But I know it is unlikely ever to happen now. I left before the demise of the Celtic tiger. I was one of those emigrants who planned to be away just for a few years. To get experience, to apply my skills elsewhere, for the adventure. However, when the recession came and moving back became just a fantasy I was left considering myself lucky to have gotten out of Ireland before the crash.
It pains me to see friends now uprooting their entire families to emigrate. I get the calls for advice; I try to help where I can. It is difficult when you feel perhaps you should be helping them to stay in Ireland considering I know the hardships faced by those emigrating (and those left behind). Every emigrant finds different things difficult – the vice-grip like hug from a mother in Dublin airport, the choking back of tears as you see the coastline from the plane window when you return for a visit, the missing of family celebrations, visiting Ireland with your child for the first time, not being there for loved ones in the hard times and many more. However, one of the hardest for me is the feeling you cannot make a difference in Ireland, for Ireland.
As an emigrant, no matter how successful you are, there will always be that sense of wishing you could do and be more for your country. This is why I certainly can’t turn my back and fully let go of Ireland.
This feeling is what I will face when I take my oath of Canadian citizenship later today. Of course it will be mixed with pride and infinite thanks to Canada as it truly has provided me with opportunity, support and a never ending welcome. However, the oath I take will not supplant my ingrained heart filled connection to Ireland.
This, even one of Canada’s founding fathers, Thomas Darcy McGee, knew. As an Irish immigrant to Canada who was instrumental in Canadian confederation, McGee clearly faced some of the same feelings as evident in the lines of his poem “Am I remembered in Erin?”:
Oh, Mother! Mother Erin!
Many sons your age hath seen -
Many gifted constant lovers
Since your mantle first was green;
Then how in may I hope to cherish
The dream that I could be
In your crowded memory number’d
With that palm-crowned company?
Yet faint and far, my Mother!
As the hope shines on my sight,
I cannot choose but watch it
Till my eyes have lost their light;
For never among your brightest
And never among your best,
Was heart more true to Erin
Than beats within my breast.
The poem hangs in my office for all to see and a copy will be in my breast pocket when I take the Oath of Canadian citizenship today.