Speech by the Minister for Justice and Equality
Frances Fitzgerald TD,
Bailey Allen Hall, NUI Galway
16th October 2015
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for that warm welcome. And thanks especially to Professor Brian Hughes for welcoming all of us today. It is a privilege to hold this ceremony in this wonderful seat of learning. I want to specially welcome you who will shortly become Ireland’s newest citizens. You and your friends and families are our special guests today – it is very much your day. From today, you are part of a new family. You'll have one of these (Irish passport). Small. Sturdy. And significant. Much more significant than it looks at first glance.
It says something, when you produce it. Something small and quiet.
It says "I am Irish." And that small, quiet statement is amazingly welcome, all over the world.
That's why the Irish passport, which as you know can only be held by Irish citizens, is a highly prized possession. Because, while Ireland has sent our people, our literature and music – not to mention Irish pubs - all over the world, Ireland has never invaded any other land, never sought to enslave or occupy.
We come in peace and we stand for peace.
Today, you will take an oath of fidelity to our nation and loyalty to our State. You will do so in the knowledge that this relatively young State – still less than a century since our independence was gained - is a place of culture where traditions are cherished and history is ever-present. Be sure, too, that this State is a place of diversity and openness.
We value the new strands you bring to the fabric of our nation.
You will have the same rights, the same duties and the same responsibilities as every other Irish citizen. We ask you, as we ask all our citizens, to participate actively in our communities, to be good citizens, and to uphold the law. 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. One simple, lasting and important statement. And it's this.
You belong. You're Irish. You belong here. You're one of us.
Today’s ceremony is greatly enhanced by the presence of Bryan McMahon, a retired Judge of the High Court, who will perform the role of the Presiding Officer and administer the Declaration of Fidelity to the Irish Nation and Loyalty to the State, which is the final part of the citizenship application process and without which you cannot become an Irish citizen. We are very grateful to Bryan for being here today to fulfill this most important function.
The Garda Band, conducted by Inspector Pat Kenny, is providing the music for today’s event which I think you will agree adds immeasurably to the sense of occasion. I would like to thank all the members of the band for their wonderful performance.
The participation of the Colour Party, led by Lieutenant Seamus Shannon, honours our national flag and underlines the solemnity and dignity of the ceremony. Thank you all for your presence and your contribution to this event.
The Staff of my Department have worked tirelessly in processing your applications and in making today’s event run smoothly. On behalf of all of us, I thank them also.
Ireland has changed beyond all recognition; in little over a decade we have changed from being an overwhelming mono-cultural society to being the home for an amazingly diverse range of communities. There is hardly a country on the planet which is not represented in our cities, towns and villages. From remote South Sea Islands to the great American continent; from the vastness of Africa to the great landmass of the East – Ireland is now home to people from all these lands. One small island at the periphery of Europe, a small island that once sent forth almost half its population in starvation and fear to other countries, is now a magnet nation, and we're proud of that.
As you leave here today, as proud new citizens of this Republic and constitutional democracy, our history is your history and the narrative of your life is now part of our history.
In a few moments you will make your declaration of Fidelity to our Nation and Loyalty to our State. These are solemn and serious pledges and it is the duty of us all, as citizens of a proud nation which values inclusion, tolerance and diversity, to uphold them.
Following that, we will stand and face the national flag in respect and remembrance of past generations while celebrating the present generation and our National Anthem will be played. I wish to congratulate you, one and all, on becoming our newest Irish citizens and welcome you to our national family.
I now formally introduce Judge McMahon and invite him to administer the declaration in which you publicly declare your Fidelity to our Nation and Loyalty to our State as well as an undertaking to faithfully observe the laws of the State and respect its democratic values.