'This tiny island has as its citizens people from every country on this planet'

Those granted citizenship at today’s ceremonies originate from over 90 countries. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan

Some of Ireland's newest citizens have been urged to seize the opportunity afforded to them by their new status by taking part in the upcoming referendum on May 24.

People living in Ireland have the right to vote in different types of elections, but only citizens can vote on changing the constitution, a ceremony conferring citizenship on almost 2,500 people from 90 countries was told.

The final step the oath of loyalty and fidelity to the Irish State made the new citizens equal of those who had been here generations, said retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon who was one of two presiding officers at the ceremony in the Killarney Convention Centre, Co Kerry.

“We have no second class citizens,” Mr Justice McMahon said.

“Participate fully in the political system. Vote! You have a right to vote now,” he added.

Mr Justice McMahon also urged the new citizens not to forget their old country, their stories, and their songs and to bring with them their own memories.

Lt. Matthew Kennedy, 12th Batallion, Limerick holds the Irish flag
Lt. Matthew Kennedy, 12th Batallion, Limerick holds the Irish flag

“Such memories are not contraband,” he said.

The retired judge said the first thing everyone wanted to do was to apply for a passport, but he said they should also buy a copy of the constitution.

“Gently assert yourselves in your new communities and you will be surprised what welcome you will find there,” he said.

The new citizens should not, however be too modest in their aspirations and one day they or their children could be ministers or justices or could follow An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

In a televised address Mr Varadkar, offering his congratulations said father was Indian, his sister was born in the UK and some of his relatives lived in America.

“My family story like yours is very much defined by migration,” the Taoiseach said.

Ireland, not yet 100 years a State, was a place of diversity and of openness, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said in his address.

Since 2011, when large scale citizenship ceremonies were introduced, some 122,000 people from 180 countries had become Irish citizens, Mr Flanagan added.

Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD.
Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD.

“It is truly remarkable this tiny island on the edge of Europe facing into the Atlantic has as its citizens people from every country on this planet."

Poland, with 406 people, was the top nationality at the ceremony followed by 309 from the United Kingdom and 218 from Romania.

Indians were the fourth highest grouping.

Lucimeire Da Silva, originally from Brazil, and living in Dublin had worked for a while as an extra on Fair City. The mother of a two-year-old is married to James McClafferty from Donegal and has been in Ireland for eight years. Seated on the front row and waving an Irish flag enthusiastically Ms Da Silva said: “I love Ireland!”

The couple had met in a pub in Dublin, she said.

Ravinder Dhingra from Jaipur, India but living in Glenageary in Dublin for six years with his wife and five year-old son, said: “It’s a very big day. I love this country.”

Working in IT, he had come to Ireland for an assignment - but stayed. Asked what he liked so much about Ireland, Mr Dhingra said: "It’s really the people."

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