State welcomes newest citizens
It was a day of celebration at the National Convention Centre in Dublin today as almost 4,000 people from 115 countries became Ireland's newest citizens.
Many of those at today's events had waited a considerable time to be granted citizenship. Among them was Maria Elizabeth Mallo (50) from the Philippines who has lived in Roscommon for the past 10 years.
"I am very excited today because I have been here for so long working hard to get my citizenship," she said. "I love Ireland, although being from a tropical country I don't think I will ever be used to the weather," she added.
Attorney General Máire Whelan SC and retired justice Bryan McMahon presided over four ceremonies at which 3,800 individuals were sworn as Irish citizens, having made a declaration of loyalty to the nation and fidelity to the State as well as undertaking to faithfully observe the laws of the State and respect its democratic values.
Paul Ewetuga (42) - from Lagos, Nigeria, but now living in Cork city - has also waited for 10 years to get citizenship.
"It is good for me today because it will make some major changes to my life such as access to good healthcare and education," he told The Irish Times. "When I was not a citizen here my life was much harder."
In his speech, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the granting of citizenship was a major event in the lives of all of those who applied for it. "It is a time of celebration, a rite of passage and a moment for you all to cherish," he said.
"For those of you granted citizenship your future is now interwoven with the future of this State, its citizens across the globe and in particular, all of us who live on this island."
Mr Shatter said Ireland was enriched by the presence of these new citizens. “You have come to our country and have chosen to live among us. Some of you have been waiting a considerable time for this day to arrive. Today, we welcome you to our nation as its newest citizens, and we hope that you will continue to contribute to our communities, to our neighbourhood and to our society," he said.
The first Citizenship Ceremony ever held in the State took place in June 2011 when 73 new citizens were sworn in. Since then approximately 14,000 individuals from 161 countries have been granted citizenship at 55 ceremonies.
Dhan Maya Adhikari (39), from Pokhara in Nepal attended her husband's citizenship ceremony last September, and today it was her time.
"I am living over six years in Ireland,. and it is very nice to become a citizen now like my husband. I like very much the people here, and we are very happy," she said.
Mr Shatter said that attempts by the Department of Justice to deal with a massive backlog of citizenship applications had proven successful.
He said when the Government came into office, 22,000 applications were awaiting decision. More than 30,000 applications have now been dealt with, including almost 17,000 so far this year.