Minister welcomes Ireland's 2,000 new citizens

Minister welcomes Ireland's 2,000 new citizens
Mabel Chah from Cameroon with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan after she received her Irish Citizenship at the Citizenship Ceremony in the INEC, Killarney, today. Pic: Don MacMonagle

Some 2,000 people today walked into the convention centre in Killarney with nationalities spanning 100 countries - but walked out Irish citizens, with the same rights and obligations as everyone else who is a citizen in the State.

During two solemn but moving citizen ceremonies, the largest grouping of new citizens were from Poland, the next largest from the UK.

Ireland is about building a shared unity “at the heart of the European family of nations”, said Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan who stressed the importance of integration by all, old and new.

He said it was remarkable that a tiny island on the edge of the Atlantic now had citizens from every country in the world.

On his way into the ceremony, the Minister was asked about an apparent rise of racism. He distinguished between “casual racism” which he said was not wilful and could be addressed by education and information, and what he said was recent “insidous anti-emigrant” sentiment.

He said:

I am more concerned about what is an insidious anti-emigrant sentiment that I have noticed in recent times.

"Small numbers of people attempting to exercise influence on communities.

"This was why uplifting welcoming ceremonies such as this in Killarney are so important."

Ireland’s commitment to diversity and tolerance was also emphasised by the Minister and presiding officer and retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon.

Individuals from Nigeria to Latvia, India to the US, all stood together and each in their own name swore an oath of fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the Irish State and to respect its democratic values.

Then Mr Justice McMahon congratulated all the new citizens and urged them to turn to their neighbour and congratulate each other.

As in previous such ceremonies, he urged them to tell their children about their old countries and not to forget them.

“This State does not require you to forget the country you come from or erase your personal histories," he advised them to a round of applause.

Do not forget your own country.

At today's ceremony, Minister David Stanton thanked Kerry Mayor Niall Kelleher when they met for his ‘swift action' earlier this year in removing racist signage from around the town.

He was referring to an incident on September 30 when 20 racist stickers were placed along the Muckross Road to the Convention Centre.

A citizenship ceremony had been due to take place there on the day but was cancelled months previously due to a citizenship-related legal challenge against the State.

The stickers, which featured the slogan ‘You’ll Never Be The Irish!’, appeared on lamp posts and signs leading to the popular venue.

They featured caricatures of a Chinese man, a Roma woman holding a baby, an African man carrying a knife and a Muslim man wearing a traditional white ankle-length robe.

Behind them was a woman a black burqa and another man of indeterminable race.

Almost as soon as they appeared Councillor Kelleher led condemnations of them and helped ensure they were removed as soon as possible.

And indeed because of those stickers, the Irish Examiner understands undercover gardaí had to be tasked to monitor the area before today’s citizenship ceremony to ensure there was no repeat of the incident.

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