US woman makes Irish history in first private citizenship ceremony

Elizabeth Darmody Leonard with the Irish citizenship papers that she received from Sean Ryan of the Immigration Section of the Department of Justice.

A Californian woman made history last week when she became the first ever person to receive Irish citizenship in a private ceremony at her home.

US woman Elizabeth Darmody Leonard was presented with her papers by John Ryan of the Immigration Section of the Department of Justice at her home in Portroe, Co. Tipperary.

A former California university lecturer, Leonard is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

Speaking to the Tipperary Star, she said her love affair with Ireland began during her first trip here in 1967.

“I fell in love with the country and that love has never lessened,” said Leonard.

After several more trips to Ireland, she and her husband Bob travelled there for their 30th wedding anniversary.

“To keep the man [Bob] entertained we would look at old, derelict structures, but never had a plan to buy anything. It was purely for the craic,” she said.

“We were self-catering in Castlelough and we stumbled across our cottage. Our lives were transformed purely by serendipity,” she said.

When she gets her new Irish passport, Elizabeth and Bob are thinking of using it for a river cruise somewhere in Europe.

Elizabeth thanked Junior Minister Alan Kelly and Cllr Virginia O’Dowd for “making her dream come true,” saying it was a “testament to their persistence” that she had been granted citizenship in her home.