Radio: Proud to be Irish on St Patrick’s Day? These new citizens are

When Ray D’Arcy meets people who have taken citizenship it’s a telling snapshot of Irish life. Shock jock Adrian Kennedy’s daytime talk show makes you want to emigrate

Mother’s pride: When the Today FM DJ Alison Curtis told Irish friends she was taking citizenship, they asked why

Mother’s pride: When the Today FM DJ Alison Curtis told Irish friends she was taking citizenship, they asked why

Sat, Mar 15, 2014, 01:00

With St Patrick’s Day ensuring that the exodus from our shores is even greater than normal, what with most Government Ministers going off on jollies across the globe, it is no great surprise that Irish migrants should feature prominently on The Ray D’Arcy Show (Today FM, weekdays). But while some of the focus predictably falls on the diaspora – a phone competition involves expats from as far afield as Australia and Japan, testament to home comforts provided by radio in the internet age – more unexpected voices are in evidence, too.

Getting in the mood for the day “when everyone is proud to be Irish”, D’Arcy meets three women for whom the annual wearing of leprechaun hats was not a birthright but a privilege they had to apply for. Born in Germany, Sudan and Canada, Steph, Aprar and Alison are among the 59,000 or so people who have taken Irish citizenship in the past three years, whom D’Arcy terms “the new Irish, for want of a better label”, and whose motives for assuming their new national identity prove as diverse as their origins.

Steph, for example, has lived here since arriving as an au pair, in 1997, but even when she married an Irishman and had her first child, she felt no overwhelming need to “become Irish” – as an EU citizen, she faced no residency restrictions – until the sudden death of her two-year-old boy changed her mind. “This is my home,” she says in a strong rural accent. “My son was born here and is buried here.”

Aprar, on the other hand, came to Ireland as the 10-year-old daughter of a doctor, and applied for her passport out of necessity: as an architecture student, she previously had to renew her visa annually. “It was about making life easier,” she says. But she does not see herself staying here, largely because of the scarcity of work. In this regard the “new Irish” experience mirrors that of the native-born population.

D’Arcy uses his guests’ differing paths to citizenship to tease out contrasting aspects of Irish life, some of which inspire genuine pride. Remembering people’s kindness after the loss of her son, Steph says that “Irish do funerals and disaster like that extremely well,” adding, “You wouldn’t have got that kind of support in Germany.”

But D’Arcy doesn’t shy away from more troubling angles, asking Aprar whether she has encountered racism here. “Not me personally,” she says, “but I do hear stories.”

As the guests tell their stories, it is striking how important personal factors, rather than any admiration for Ireland, were in making the decision to become citizens. They may even indicate a wider national mood. Alison, who turns out to be Today FM’s long-serving indie DJ Alison Curtis, recalls that when, after the birth of her daughter, she told Irish friends that she was taking citizenship, “Everyone asked, why? I thought that was sad.” Like so much else in postcrash Ireland, national pride seems in short supply.

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