More than 2,000 people become Irish citizens

Hundreds take the oath of fidelity to the State during two ceremonies in Convention Centre

 

More than 2,000 people gathered at the Convention Centre in Dublin on Friday to become the State’s newest citizens.

Since the citizenship ceremonies began five years ago, 95,000 people from 170 countries have made their way to the building on the quays to take an oath of fidelity to Ireland.

On Friday, there were two ceremonies in order to accommodate the numbers of citizenship candidates.

Attendees at the first ceremony gathered in the auditorium to the sound of the Village People’s “YMCA”, as played by the Garda Band and conducted by Insp Pat Kenny.

Garda Charles Kavanagh also gave a rendition of Dean Martin’s “Sway”, before the band played a selection of Glen Miller.

The Irish flag was then marched on stage and the formal part of the ceremony began.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald told citizenship candidates and their guests that it had been a troubling year internationally, with “the very divisive Brexit and US election campaigns” and “some hardening attitudes to the admission of asylum-seekers.

“I believe voters across the world are expressing a sense of exclusion . . . and sometimes that exclusion is manifesting itself in a desire to exclude others, those who don’t appear to share one’s identity, culture or nationality,” she said.

“As a society and as a Government we must show leadership to promote inclusion over exclusion, acceptance over intolerance.”

Retired judge Brian McMahon told attendees they had an opportunity to “seize the day” and to aim for things they thought were never going to be within their reach.

“We will all be the better people for it,” he said.

The candidates then stood and swore their “fidelity to the Irish nation” and “loyalty to the State”, and promised “to faithfully observe the laws of the State and to respect its democratic values”.

To the sound of the national anthem, the new Irish citizens poured out of the auditorium and down to the centre’s ground floor, where they were reunited with families and friends who had been seated separately.

Dennis Barnedt, originally from Lake Tahoe in Nevada, US, searched for his wife Pamela among the crowd.

They were both due to become citizens on Friday, but had been listed for separate ceremonies.

He moved to Ireland temporarily seven years ago to establish a business here.

“I was only supposed to be here for six or 12 months to get it off the ground, but there were some challenges and my wife kept coming to visit me and she said, ‘I love it here, let’s move here’,” he said.

They and their two 10-year-old sons stayed because of the “village life” in Malahide, Co Dublin, and because of the people.

“We enjoy walking to the school, and walking to the store; where we are from it is very small, but you still have to get into the car to go everywhere, you don’t really know your neighbours.

“Here we have so many close friends and we know our neighbours,” he said.

Decision

Another new citizen, Feng Chen, took his time before deciding to stay in Ireland.

Speaking to The Irish Times through a friend, he said he had initially moved to England to work as a chef but had found the work very stressful.

He moved to Ireland in 2000 because he had friends here, but at first, he considered moving home to China.

However, after 16 years, he has settled.

“It was a big decision,” he said.

Ogechukwu Adibe, originally from Nigeria, had no such misgivings about applying for citizenship.

The only reservation she has about Ireland is the weather; she misses the sun.

Citizenship for Loic Deugan, originally from Cameroon, means he doesn’t need to worry anymore if he wants to travel abroad with his sports club in Co Kildare.

“It was a struggle before. Now that I have this, it will be easier for me,” he said.