Some 2,500 citizens sworn in at Convention Centre
More than 85,000 people from 161 countries have become Irish in last four years
Some 2,500 candidates from 112 countries gathered to receive Irish citizenship at three ceremonies in the Dublin Convention Centre on Friday.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, attending on behalf of the Government, described his own childhood growing up in west Dublin, the son of an Indian migrant father and an Irish mother, who had herself been a migrant worker in England where they met.
“Growing up in west Dublin, I was the only child in school with sallow skin and a funny surname,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said he was encouraged now to see the diverse mix of backgrounds of children in Dublin and nationally “going to our gaelscoileanna and togging out for GAA”.
Irish society had become “more tolerant, more inclusive and more open today than the leaders of the 1916 Rising could ever have hoped”, he said.
Among those sworn in on Friday was Iranian Javad Hasani, who has been living in Ireland for nine years, although he never intended to come here in the first place.
“I was on my way to Toronto and there was a stopover in Cork, and I got on a train to Dublin. I’m from a big city, so I couldn’t get over how beautiful the countryside was. I decided to change my flight and spend a couple of weeks travelling around.”
A trip to Kerry where he met a man he knew from Turkey cemented his decision to stay. He now has an Irish wife, Tracy, and “three babies”.
Ninfa Chacon Bendeck, a lawyer from Honduras, came to Ireland for St Patrick’s day in 2005, where she met Tony Byrne from Donegal.
“I knew the capital of Honduras was Tegucigalpa, which is where Ninfa is from, so I was able to impress her with that,” he said.
Kept in touch
Ninfa went back to Honduras after her holiday, but the two kept in touch. “Then I lived in Belgium were I was working as a diplomat, and after that we went travelling for a while.”
They’re now married for four and a half years and live in Donegal, where Ninfa works to rehome rescued dogs.
The 15 most represented countries at the ceremony were Poland, India, Romania, Pakistan, Nigeria, Philippines, Latvia, South Africa, China, Ukraine, Brazil, Hungary, Thailand, United States Of America, and the Democratic Republic Of The Congo.
The presiding officer, retired Judge Bryan McMahon, said he was particularly pleased to see faces from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who he hoped “have brought their cricket bats and wickets” to help improve the fortunes of the Irish cricket team.
Similarly, he hoped those from Brazil would bring their soccer skills to bear on the Irish football team.
“Would it not be wonderful if some of these genes were brought into the Irish athletic pool of the future?”
More than 85,000 people from 161 countries had become Irish citizens over the last four years, Judge McMahon said.
“I look forward to the day one of your children or your grandchildren lead the hurling, football or camogie teams onto the pitch at Croke Park on All-Ireland Sunday, and I look forward to the day one of your children or your grandchildren carry the Irish flag into an Olympic stadium.”