Brexit the impetus as ‘new Irish’ take citizenship in Waterford

British and Poles dominate among 670 people taking part in conferring ceremony

 

Brexit was a key factor cited by some of the 100 people from the United Kingdom conferred with Irish citizenship on Friday.

They were among approximately 670 people who received certificates of naturalisation at a ceremony in Waterford city.

Chris Barrett, a resident of Macroom for the past 20 years along with her Irish husband and their children, described Brexit as the “final push” in her decision to apply for citizenship.

“I wanted to stand by Europe and by Ireland. I can’t see where Britain is going,” she said.

Ms Barrett, who teaches art and writing classes in Cork and works with Youthreach, says Ireland was her “emotional home”. “I felt more aligned to the Irish way of life than I did to the British.”

For Desmond Hock Moh Ng (64), Friday meant the end of insecurity. He lives in Coleraine with his Irish wife and they have raised their children in Northern Ireland.

He said they feared the “hostile environment” promoted by Theresa May’s government, which saw various administrative measures implemented to make staying in the UK difficult for resident immigrants.

“We felt Brexit would leave us in a precarious situation,” he said. “In the event that there is a no-deal Brexit, the whole hostile environment practised by the home office in the UK would put us in a position whereby I would be in no-man’s-land.”

The uncertainty posed by Brexit “speeded up” the decision making for others. Estonian Aleksei Liksman (26) has been living here for 14 years and said citizenship was “inevitable” after his mother became an Irish citizen.

“Given the whole Brexit situation it might be beneficial to apply for an Irish passport,” he said. “You just never know what’s going to happen, to be honest.”

Dublin-based friends Diana Valtmane and Tatiana Sablova had different reasons for wanting citizenship.

Loyalty

Tatiana, from Russia, has a husband who was naturalised previously and she believes her becoming a citizen as well makes sense.

Brexit was not a concern for Diana. The Latvian has been in Ireland for over a decade having came to Ireland for a two-week holiday in 2007.

“I think after 12 years being here, this is my home and this is where I’m raising my kid. It was more loyalty to the country.”

Both women met in an embroidery class and wore specially crafted hats for the day courtesy of their teacher.

Only Poland had more residents than the UK being conferred - 119 citizens to 116 - at the event.

One of them was Paulina, who has been living in Ireland for the past 15 years.

She said her decision to become an Irish citizen was “nothing to do with Brexit” but instead came from a concern about domestic politics in her native Poland and elsewhere in Europe: “For me personally it’s a bit scary that Europe is turning right at this stage. What is happening with Poland and the right-wingers in power.”

Friday’s gathering was held in Waterford in order to coincide with the annual 1848 Tricolour Celebration, which marks the first hoisting of the tricolour by Thomas Francis Meagher in Waterford in 1848.

They were welcomed by Minister of State John Halligan, who told the crowd: “Rest assured, our doors are open to all peoples from all over the world”.

The presiding officer at the ceremony, retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon, administered the declaration of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State.

He said the new citizens should not “erase” the history of their native countries and encouraged them to tell their future children and grandchildren of the “old country”.