They came from South Africa, New Zealand, Ukraine, India and Egypt. Some wore saris and turbans, others came in jeans and sneakers, while still others dressed in suits and cocktail dresses; but the 73 people from 24 countries gathered together at Dublin Castle on Friday for one purpose – to become Irish citizens.
“Nervous, happy, excited, proud,” Priya Krishnan, a 32-year-old teacher from India, told the Irish Times, to describe how she felt about the day. Krishnan attended the citizenship ceremony at the castle, the first of its kind held in the State, with her husband Nagaraja Ramapatna and their children, three-month-old Tanisha and four-year-old Rohit.
The ceremony at the historic castle was remarkably different than when Mr. Ramapatna became a citizen two years ago, when he took the oath in a sterile courtroom with no sense of occasion.
“Our names are carved on a stone in the garden of the castle from when we volunteered for the Special Olympics, so it feels right,” said Ms. Krishnan. “After 11 years in this country, it’s good to finally belong in a real way.”
“We have been waiting a long time to see this day come true,” said Sunday Soeze Itabo, who has lived and worked in Ireland for 10 years. “My three children and wife have already been granted citizenship. I was the only one left and now we are a fully Irish family. This is a day worth celebrating.”
The 40-year-old law student and taxi driver from Nigeria couldn’t stop smiling as he clutched the certificate each participant received after swearing an oath of “fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the State” in the ceremony presided over by retired judge Bryan McMahon.
“We have been enriched by your presence and in making you citizens of our ancient and proud land we are acknowledging that contribution,” Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter told the new citizens. “We welcome you to our national family.”
He acknowledged that some of the people present had waited “too long” to be granted citizenship, referencing the backlog his department was trying to clear.
“It was more emotional than I expected,” said photographer Margaretha Pienaar from South Africa, whose husband François, an electrical engineer, was also granted citizenship. The couple are now applying on behalf of their nine-year-old son Charl, who acted as photographer for his parents at the event.
“Every country goes through rough times,” said Margaretha, on Ireland’s economic difficulties. “We feel proud to be Irish.”