Ireland's new citizens: 4,000 people receive certificates


THOUSANDS OF people filed into the Convention Centre Dublin yesterday, some of them in colourful national dress, to collect citizenship documents.

Twelve hours after the Taoiseach told Fine Gael delegates at the Convention Centre that Ireland was a great country with unlimited potential, thousands of immigrants queued to place their confidence in the State.

From early morning they queued for the citizenship ceremonies which were introduced by the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter last year.

Yesterday’s event was the biggest so far, with 4,000 receiving their naturalisation certificates during the day.

They first took an oath in front of Mr Shatter and retired judge Bryan McMahon to “hereby solemnly declare my fidelity to the Irish nation and my loyalty to the State”.

After the citizenship ceremony, Mr Shatter invited the newly minted Irish citizens to congratulate each other.

New Zealander Nerilee Ceatha said she was now a “proud Kiwi and Paddy” after more than a decade living in Ireland. She had a civil partnership ceremony with her Irish partner Barbara in New Zealand four years ago.

“We were all congratulating each other because we know what is involved.

“Irish people have absolutely no understanding about the lengths of time this process takes. For me one of the most significant things is not having to deal with immigration again.”

It was a colourful occasion with many African families wearing traditional dress while members of the persecuted Karen people from Burma celebrated the naturalisation of 35 former refugees by wearing their national tunics.

Four years ago Burmese couple Pawsheetita and Taki (most Burmese people only take a single name) were living in refugee camps on the Thai border. Now they live in Castlebar, Co Mayo, and are entitled to an Irish passport.

Taki expressed his gratitude by wearing a traditional Karen costume in the colours of the Irish tricolour.

His wife expressed a hope that some day they will be able to return to Burma “when there is peace like in Ireland”.

Dr Irene Pchum from Nigeria, who lives in Sligo, beamed as she cradled her three-month-old son while posing for photographs with her certificate of naturalisation.

“It makes me feel included. It re-emphasises that my love for this country is returned in a way,” she said.

Her fellow Nigerian Teddy Onaoope said his naturalisation process provoked mixed reactions.

Mr Onaoope, who has been living in Ireland for 13 years, expressed a hope that being a citizen will make him better accepted.

“There should not be a division or us being second-class citizens. We should be treated in Ireland like Irish people are treated.”