Applications by British people for Irish citizenship has increased more than tenfold in the last three years, writes Joyce Fegan.
Yesterday, at a special ceremony in Dublin, 3,200 people were conferred with Irish citizenship and 234 of them were British.
From the beginning of 2017 to the end of September, there were 624 applications for citizenship from British nationals. This is compared with 46 applications in 2014. This represents an increase of 1,256%.
In 2015 there were 72 similar applications but in 2016 this figure jumped to 573, increasing further in 2017, after the Brexit referendum in June 2016.
The Department of Justice estimates that the number of applications will continue to rise as Brexit proceeds and said the 24 hours after the referendum was the busiest ever for its immigration services website.
At yesterday’s ceremony, the most common nationality gaining citizenship was Polish, followed by Romanian and Indian.
A total of 548 Polish people received Irish citizenship, as well as 290 Romanians and 245 Indians.
Iwona Pawlus, who is originally from Poland was one of the 3,200 new Irish citizens conferred yesterday.
“I came to Ireland in February 2005 and went straight to Carlow, where I still live now,” she said. “I work in Dunnes Stores.
“I like Ireland. My daughter Maja, 9, was born here and my partner has received his citizenship also, so we wanted all the family to be together, the Irish and the Polish
“Ireland helps me very much. I do loads of things that I didn’t do in Poland. I got my driving licence here, I had a child here. She can speak in English and in Irish.
“It helps me live in a position that I can’t live like in Poland. Life here is easy.”
Retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon presided over yesterday’s ceremony and told the new Irish citizens they should recall the feeling of the day when they encounter ignorance or slurs of any kind.
“I want you to remember these words when you go into the community and sometimes you receive a slight or a slur or a cat-call from someone,” he said.
“That is not true Irish people. That is some ignorant person. So don’t take it to heart.
“Remember today. When you get some insult like that, do not exaggerate it. Remember this is the feeling that is the true Ireland for you today.”
Judge McMahon also told the new citizens to bring their heritage and memories of their old countries with them. His words were met with loud applause.
“When the State honours you today by granting you citizenship, it does not require that you forget the country you come from,” he said. “It does not ask you to erase your memories or your personal and unique history.
“Do not forget your own country, your own people, your own traditions. Such memories are not contraband.
“Bring with you your songs, your music, and your stories. Someday your children and your children’s children will ask you about their grandparents and will inquire about the old country. Do not deny them their legacy.”
Judge McMahon also reminded the new citizens that their new country had its own history of migration.
“Sometimes at these ceremonies when I look down and see more than a thousand people from as many as 180 countries, I stand in awe at the individual journey that each of you has made to get to this place today,” he said.
“We are a nation of emigrants. We understand emigration. We understand the price of emigrants. We understand the movement of peoples. We’ve been living with it for well over 150 years in recent times.”
Judge McMahon also said that new citizens are equal to old citizens and that, in Ireland, there was no such thing as “second-class” or “half” citizens.
Also in attendance yesterday was Fine Gael minister for state John Paul Phelan.
“The people of Ireland are committed to respecting all traditions in this island equally. It is important, however, that we do not become complacent and continue to keep integration to the fore,” he said.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner