Thousands pledge loyalty in Irish citizenship ceremonies


WHILE THOUSANDS of Irish people are leaving the country, several thousand immigrants took their opportunity yesterday to become citizens of Ireland.

Some 2,300 people took the declaration of loyalty to the nation and fidelity to the State in three separate ceremonies at the Convention Centre Dublin.

The citizenship ceremonies were partially brought in to give a measure of pomp and circumstance to the procedure but also because the traditional way of going to the District Court to swear allegiance to the State was threatening to clog up the courts given the volume of people involved.

The Garda Band conducted by Insp Pat Kenny and the Colour Party under the command of Capt Neil McMahon from the 2nd Eastern Brigade provided the soundtrack for yesterday’s ceremonies.

Retired judge Bryan McMahon, who presided over two of the three ceremonies, told the erstwhile citizens of more than 100 countries, that he was born in Ireland and so were his parents and grandparents, yet now they had the same entitlement and protection under the law as he had.

Judge McMahon said the ranks of well-dressed people showed those present were treating the ceremony with the respect it deserved.

He told them that taking up Irish citizenship did not mean they had to forget the country they came from. “Do not forget your own country, your own people and your own traditions. Such memories are not contraband,” he said to applause.

He joked that they were entitled to support their native country if that country was playing Ireland, but otherwise were to support Ireland at all times.

The citizenship ceremonies were initiated last year and 55 had taken place before yesterday.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said his department had been successful in clearing a backlog of 22,000 citizenship applications which were awaiting decision.

It was a day of excited chatter, colourful outfits and camera phones for the most part while the rows of buggies outside the conference room indicated many of the children of those present were Irish citizens before their parents were.

Pakistani-born Dr Shahzad Sarwar and his wife Fariha, who live in Lucan, said they had both waited four years for citizenship through a period of uncertainty.

“We couldn’t move round. We didn’t have the same flexibility. We hope for the newcomers that the process will be easier and it will be sorted soon,” Dr Sarwar said.

Dr Sarwar wore an Irish Tricolour badge on his lapel as did Patrick Adejayan and his wife Bola from Nigeria.

They have been living in Ireland for 11 years and have three children here.

Mrs Adejayan said citizenship gave them a sense of belonging in a country they have come to love.

“I will pray that God will restore the fortunes of Ireland and bounce back,” she said.