800 new Irish citizens told ‘you’re one of us’

Esther Gaba from Togo with her daughter Erica after receiving Irish citizenship at University College Cork. Picture: Des Barry

You’re one of us now, the justice minister told more than 800 new Irish citizens yesterday as UCC hosted its first citizenship ceremonies.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald also urged the new citizens from 88 different counties to bring with them the stories and traditions from their old countries to enrich their new country.

“We value the new strands you bring to the fabric of our nation,” she said.

“The possibilities opened up to you in Ireland today are almost limitless; perhaps one day, you or a child or grandchild of yours, could be up here as a minister for justice, or as judge, or perhaps the President of Ireland.

“But, irrespective of the direction life’s road takes you, today says one simple, lasting thing to each of you. And it’s this: ‘You belong. You’re Irish. You belong here. You’re one of us’.”

UCC hosted three citizenship ceremonies during the day — a first for the university — in which 845 candidates from 88 different countries became citizens.

The ceremonies brought to 99 the total number of citizenship ceremonies held in Ireland and to more than 57,000 the number of people from over 160 countries who have become citizens through the process.

Bryan McMahon, a retired judge of the High Court and professor of law at UCC, was the presiding officer, administering the Declaration of Fidelity to the Irish Nation and Loyalty to the State.

He encouraged the candidates from India and Pakistan to help us develop cricket, and the Brazilians to help us improve our soccer.

But he told the South Africans and Australians that after the heroics of our national rugby squad in recent weeks, we’re doing just fine at that sport.

Harun Ozdemir, who is originally from Turkey, watched with pride, as his wife Merve, followed him through the citizenship process.

“You are recognised as a citizen and to have that makes you feel different.

“You feel part of the community, part of Irish culture. I’m here 15 years now. Nearly half of my life has been spent in Ireland.”

The family, who live in Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, said they were delighted the ceremony took place in Cork.

Teyivi Lawson, from Togo, was embraced by his wife Abra Nabiliwa, after he received his citizenship.

He came to Ireland in 2002 and is living and working in Dublin.

“I’m so very glad and so grateful for this day. I don’t know how to thank the Irish people. This country is a wonderful country, a peaceful country. I can’t compare it with my home country of Togo. I just want to make my modest contribution to Irish society.”

Genaro and Cecilia Pescadero, from the Philippines and who have been living in Ireland nine and 13 years respectively, travelled from Finglas for the ceremony.

“It feels like I’m Irish now. You can vote for the Government. I feel like a part of this society.”

Cecilia, who works in the Mater Hospital in Dublin, said as well as the honour of Irish citizenship, it would be easier to travel now and would mean not having to queue for visas.

The ceremonies were hosted by Prof John O’Halloran, vice-president for teaching and learning at UCC, who also oversees the Quercus Talented Students’ Programme — four members of which were involved in the ceremonies.

“UCC is a globally orientated university, with 3,000 international students.

“In university, we say ‘diversity bestows stability’ and the greater diversity we have, the better for us as a university, and as a nation.”


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