‘Becoming a citizen means everything’: Ceremonies held in Killarney for almost 5,000 people

Just under 5,000 people have attended six citizenship ceremonies over the past two days

Just under 5,000 people have become Irish citizens over the past two days in six ceremonies in Killarney, Co Kerry – with a further two days of ceremonies to take place in Dublin in 10 days time.

Among the lead nations of origin of the 4,800 in Killarney are India, with almost 1,000, and the UK, with 416. These were followed by Brazil, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Nigeria and Pakistan, each with more than 200 new citizens; and the USA, which had 119.

Tuesday’s new citizens come from 138 countries and live in 18 counties.

The ceremony at the INEC in Killarney heard from Áine Griffin of the Department of Justice.

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The Irish for citizen, “saoránach”, is based on the root word meaning “free”, Ms Griffin said to a spontaneous round of applause. Retired judge Ms Justice Mary Irvine, presiding officer, explained the Latin tag “carpe diem” – and urged the new citizens to seize the day and the opportunities “the landmark event” of citizenship afforded them.

Speaking by video link, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee delivered some words of welcome and said that the citizenship ceremonies were among the highlights of their year in the department.

Leeds-born Seán Laughey – like Haughey but with an ‘L’ he said –, whose family are among just 16 Laugheys in the world, had lived in Dublin for 20 years. Restrictions since Britain left the EU had prompted him to apply.

Since Brexit, his wife and three children could “sail through” customs to France and Spain. Mr Laughey also worked for a company based in Portugal and travelling since Brexit was difficult. “It’s rotten,” he said.

Hrvoje Graf from Zagreb in Croatia moved to Cratloe in Galway in 2016 and works with a printing company. His wife and three children – a 20-year-old student in UL; an 18-year-old sitting his Leaving Cert and a 12-year-old in primary school – have also applied. Hrvoje’s mother, Nada, came for the occasion.

Hrovje’s first name means Croat – so now he will have to change his name to Éire, he joked, adding his mother’s name meant hope.

“It’s quite important,” mother and son said of the citizenship.

Jinxin Wang from Beijing has been living in Dublin for 11 years. She arrived as a student and now works for KPMG. The decision was a big one, as she will have to give up her Chinese citizenship.

“It was something I was trying to work through for a while. It was a big decision.”

“I do like Ireland a lot. I love the country and I like my life here,” she said.

Jinxin wore a green dress to mark the occasion and enjoyed her trip to Killarney.

Elizabeth Castillo is originally from Mexico. Mother of two girls aged four years and eight months, Elizabeth was very emotional thinking of her father-in-law John Adams, who passed away just last year.

“He would have been very proud,” she said.

Dr Umair Tayyub, originally from Pakistan and a gastroenterologist in Galway, became an Irish citizen last year. His wife Dr Rabia was in Killarney on Tuesday to take her citizenship. The couple and their two children, aged nine and five, a boy and a girl, “love Ireland” and will be staying.

“Becoming a citizen means everything,” Dr Rabia said.

Canan Canpolat is originally from Istanbul. The family moved to Cork 13 years ago and she was accompanied to the ceremony by younger sister Cansu, a student at MTU and already an Irish citizen.

Citizenship ceremonies were introduced in 2011 by then minister for justice Alan Shatter to mark the occasion of the granting of citizenship in a dignified and solemn manner. Since then some 176,000 people have received Irish citizenship.

The new Irish citizens will undertake to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values.