New citizens join 'the Irish family'

 

AS IF to test their resolve, the Irish rain fell heavily on those who queued outside the Convention Centre yesterday as they awaited their turn to become some of the country’s newest citizens.

Since the first citizenship ceremony took place in Dublin Castle almost a year ago, around 50 such events have taken place. Yesterday another 4,000 people from 110 countries joined the ranks of the “new Irish”.

But while this was not the first ceremony of its kind, that didn’t dilute the sense of pride displayed by those taking part. This was their day and the weather wasn’t about to rain on their parade.

The sense of occasion continued inside where the Garda band played the national anthem.

From his vantage point in his father’s arms, one little boy pretended to be a conductor, dramatically sweeping his arms to and fro in time with the music.

His father watched him, the look on his face mirroring that of many of those in attendance: undiluted pride.

The obvious importance of the occasion to those present was manifest in the way many recorded the ceremony on their phones; in the palpable groundswell of pride when members of the Defence Forces brought the Irish flag on stage; and in the sheer joy with which Ireland’s newest citizens declared their oath of citizenship.

“I . . . solemnly declare my fidelity to the Irish nation and my loyalty to the State. I undertake to faithfully observe the laws of the state and to respect its democratic values,” they chanted in unison, repeating the words after Justice John MacMenamin.

The elation continued as Minister for Justice Alan Shatter addressed them afterwards: “You entered this room as citizens from over 100 different countries. You’re going to leave this room all being citizens of the one country,” he said to applause.

“You are now truly part of the Irish family, truly part of Irish society living on this island and part and parcel of what makes us, as a State, what we are,” Mr Shatter continued.

He then told them of some of their new privileges: they can now vote in referendums and are entitled to receive an Irish passport (although an official later passed on a request from the passport office on Molesworth Street that they should not go there in their droves afterwards as had happened after past ceremonies).

Outside the auditorium Amarachi Obadeyi, who is originally from Nigeria, but who has lived here since she was 11, spoke of how she felt on becoming a citizen. “It’s a huge privilege,” she said simply and with feeling.

Another new citizen, Reza Mirfattahi, who wore a Tricolour pin on his lapel and was accompanied by Tommy Reichenthal, a Holocaust survivor and a naturalised Irish citizen since 1977, spoke of his pride: “Being able to participate fully in the Irish democratic process and being able to vote as an Irish citizen in upcoming referendums or general elections is a very exciting prospect for me. I’ve tasted a real democracy for the very first time in my life here in Ireland,” he said.

Andres Martoreu, originally from Uruguay and who has lived here for nine years, said: “Now I have the identity and the security that I can be here and I can have my life here”.

Asked how he would celebrate he replied: “Hopefully with a win from Ireland against Spain in the Euros – that would be a great way to celebrate”.

Mohammad Shoaib, from Bangladesh, said he first came to Ireland because his wife, who is already an Irish citizen, lived here.

When asked if he had grown to love Ireland during his eight years here, he replied, with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat, “very much”.

Asked how he would celebrate the occasion, he gave an appropriately Irish answer: “I think I will take a cup of tea,” he said through his tears.