'After 11 years in this country, it's good to finally belong in a real way'

 

“NERVOUS, HAPPY, excited, proud”. Teacher Priya Krishnan summed up the emotions of 73 people from 24 countries across five continents who became newly minted Irish in a citizenship ceremony at Dublin Castle yesterday, the first of its kind held in the State.

Ms Krishnan (32) from India attended with her husband Nagaraja Ramapatna and their children, three-month-old Tanisha and Rohit (4). When Mr Ramapatna became a citizen two years ago, he took the oath in a sterile courtroom with no sense of occasion, so Ms Krishnan was “very, very pleased” the event was held at the historic castle.

“Our names are carved on a stone in the garden of the castle from when we volunteered for the Special Olympics, so it feels right,” she said. “After 11 years in this country, it’s good to finally belong in a real way.”

Law student and taxi driver Sunday Soeze Itabo (40) from Nigeria couldn’t stop smiling as he clutched the certificate each participant received after swearing an oath of “fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State” in the ceremony presided over by retired judge Bryan McMahon.

“We have been waiting a long time to see this day come true,” said Mr Itabo, who has lived and worked here for 10 years. “My three children and wife have already been granted citizenship. I was the only one left and now we are a fully Irish family. This is a day worth celebrating.”

Addressing the new citizens, Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter said some people present had waited “too long” to be granted citizenship, referencing the backlog his department was trying to clear. “We have been enriched by your presence and in making you citizens of our ancient and proud land we are acknowledging that contribution,” he said. “We welcome you to our national family.”

The dress code was as diverse as the participants. They wore saris and turbans, jeans and trainers, suits and cocktail dresses. Countries of origin included South Africa, Philippines, New Zealand, Ukraine, Tajikistan, India, Croatia, Russia, Egypt and Tajikistan.

While the national pride of many citizens has been dented in recent years, the new Irish were ebullient. “It was more emotional than I expected,” said photographer Margaretha Pienaar from South Africa, shortly after swearing the oath and sticking her tricolour “naturalisation pin” to her scarf. Both she and her husband, electrical engineer François, were granted citizenship. The couple are now applying on behalf of their son Charl (9), who acted as photographer for his newly Irish parents.

Did they think, given the economic difficulties, it was a bad time to become Irish? “Every country goes through rough times,” said Margaretha. “We feel proud to be Irish.” Rain lashed down as the crowd left the castle. “We’re Irish, we’re used to it,” one said.

Report: page 6