New CitizensPosted July 29th, 2011
Today I was both privileged and honoured to be asked by Minister Shatter to officiate at a swearing in ceremony for new Irish citizens. Justice Bryan Mc Mahon did the official bit and I was there to give welcome and congratulations on behalf of the government.
These ceremonies are an innovation from the government and are quite something to observe. People are nervous, happy, emotional. They sit together in a room with family and friends. There were about 200 new citizens on this occasion. I was invited in with Justice Mc Mahon. I gave opening remarks, the Judge then gave his remarks, which were excellent, before proceeding to lead everyone in an oath. I then said a few closing words and then we had the national anthem. Simple but solemn. It was great.
And it adds a real sense of occasion to what is a key event in anyone’s life. I was quite proud to be able to welcome in new citizens like this. It is the most rewarding thing I have done to date as a public representative and I hope I will have the opportunity to do it again.
Below is the text of the speech I delivered, prepared with the help of the Department of Justice.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Cathal Brugha Barracks on this very special occasion.
The granting of citizenship to a person who has come to our country from a
foreign land is quite clearly a major event in his or her life. It is a
time of celebration, a rite of passage and a moment for all of you to
cherish. It is also a solemn event for this State in granting it.
The Minister for Justice and Equality is, in law, given the duty of
deciding who should be awarded the privilege of citizenship. In doing so,
he must carefully apply the citizenship laws enacted by our Parliament and
consider the individual circumstances of those who seek Irish citizenship.
That duty is taken very seriously, as he acts on behalf of all Irish people
in deciding who should be granted the privilege of Irish citizenship.
Citizenship is not awarded lightly and it is right that it’s granting is
marked by a sense of occasion that serves to underscore its importance to
you, the person receiving it, and to us who, on behalf of the people of
Ireland, grant it to you.
You have come to our country and have chosen to live among us and today,
after a long journey, we welcome you to our nation as its newest citizens
and we hope that you will continue to contribute to our communities, to our
neighbourhood and to our society. As a people we have been enriched by
your presence and in making you citizens of our ancient and proud land we
are acknowledging that contribution.
Our ceremony today is greatly enhanced by the presence of Bryan McMahon, a
highly respected lawyer and very recently retired High Court Judge and a
greatly respected patron of the arts. Bryan will lend great dignity to the
proceedings in his role as presiding officer and his presence will signify
in a very public way the importance of the occasion. I want to thank you
most sincerely, Bryan, for taking on this task.
There is a great advantage in the same person being the Minister for
Justice and also the Minister for Defence in that it allows us to use the
unique setting of Cathal Brugha Barracks to facilitate us in welcoming many
thousands of new Irish citizens.
I want to thank GOC Denis Murphy, Commandant Adrian Jacobs and the 2nd
Battalion for their dedication, work and assistance in preparing for today’s
event, and, of course, the Pipers from Combined Army Pipe Band for
joining us for this important ceremony. I also want to thank the
Department of Justice officials who have organised today’s event; Noel
Waters, Director General of the Irish Immigration and Naturalisation
Service and Principal Officer John Ryan and his team.
I referred earlier to the length of time that many of you here today will
have waited for your citizenship applications to be processed.
When the new Government came into office on 9th March there was a backlog
of approximately 22,000 citizenship applications awaiting decision,
approximately 17,000 of which had been waiting for in excess of 6 months
with an average waiting time of 25 months. Some, indeed, had waited
longer. It is entirely inappropriate, and completely out of step with
other countries, that people wishing to become Irish citizens should be
required to wait an average of 25 months for a decision on their
On taking up office, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence
immediately initiated steps within the Department of Justice to deal with
the huge backlog of citizenship applications. Over 10,000 applications
have been dealt with in the past 4 and a half months which well exceeds the
full year total for 2010. It is expected that the current backlog will be
dealt with by Spring of next year. From that time on the objective is
that, under new measures announced on 16th June, save in exceptional
circumstances, persons applying for citizenship will be given a decision on
their application within six months.
Over the course of today and tomorrow, 1,350 candidates for citizenship
from 83 countries across 5 Continents will have their applications granted
here in Cathal Brugha Barracks.
Our ceremony today on the award of citizenship is maintaining in a very
public way one of the very potent and powerful manifestations of our
independence as a nation.
The history of this State is now your history and the narrative of your
life is now part of our history. For those of you granted citizenship
today your future is now interwoven with the future of this State, its
citizens across the globe and, in particular, all of us who live on this
I wish to congratulate you, one and all, on becoming our newest Irish
Citizens – we welcome you to our national family.
I now formally introduce Justice Bryan Mc Mahon and call upon him to
administer the declaration of Fidelity, in which you publicly declare your
loyalty to our Nation and Fidelity to our State as well as an undertaking
to faithfully observe the laws of the State and respect its democratic