Check Against Delivery
November 25th 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great privilege for me to be here to share this very special day with you.
I extend a warm welcome to each of you here who will shortly become Ireland’s newest citizens. Together with your family and with your friends we join with you in celebrating this major event in your life.
From today, you are part of a new family. You'll have an Irish passport – a small, sturdy, and significant document. 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." That small, quiet statement is amazingly welcome, all over the world.
And it’s an even more prized possession in these very uncertain times.
Ireland has sent our people, our literature and music all over the world. Since the foundation of our State we have also sought to help other developing States through our peacekeeping missions and substantial overseas development aid.
Today, you will take an oath of fidelity to our nation and loyalty to our State. You will do so in the knowledge that the people of Ireland are committed to respecting all traditions on this island equally. We also recognise that developing a greater understanding of our shared history, in all its diversity, is essential to developing greater understanding and building a shared future.
But I acknowledge that we certainly aren’t perfect. We must do more to improve the lives of all citizens in our society—old and new.
In the next couple of weeks, I will be publishing a new Migrant Integration Strategy – in essence, a framework for enabling migrants to participate fully in Irish life. As Tánaiste and Deputy Prime Minister of the Government, I will be seeking a series of actions across government to support the integration process and to tackle barriers to such integration. In my capacity as Tánaiste, I will ensure that this Government breaks down the barriers to people achieving their full potential. Providing equality of opportunity to everyone is how we can make this society just and fair.
Today’s ceremony is all about inclusion. Inclusion in society and inclusion in the Irish family. That inclusion must never mean the exclusion of others. Our identity must always be accepting of new identities and today we value and celebrate the new strands each of you bring to the fabric of our nation.
2016 has so far been a year of rich and diverse activities where the full complexity of the last 100 years on this island is being explored and celebrated. However, it has also been a troubling year internationally. We have witnessed the very divisive Brexit and US election campaigns and some hardening attitudes to the admission of asylum seekers.
I say troubling because I believe voters across the world are expressing a sense of exclusion—exclusion from an economy that focuses more on generating resources productively, rather than how those resources should be used to benefit people. And sometimes that exclusion is manifesting itself in a desire to exclude others—those who don’t appear to share one’s identity, culture or nationality.
As a society and as a Government, we must show leadership to promote inclusion over exclusion, acceptance over intolerance. Each and every one of you can play your part in this pursuit, as new Irish citizens.
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 dignity and solemnity of today’s ceremony is greatly enhanced by the presence of Judge Bryan McMahon, who will perform the role of Presiding Officer. Judge McMahon will administer the Declaration of Fidelity to the Irish Nation and Loyalty to the State – this is the final element of the application process and without it you cannot become an Irish citizen.
The presence of the Colour Party under the command of Captain Kyran Byrne, also underlines the solemnity and importance of the ceremony.
What we ask of all our citizens, for all our sakes, are serious and solemn pledges and it is our duty to uphold them. On behalf of the Irish people we ask that you do your utmost to uphold these pledges to our nation, to its values and to your fellow citizens as you go forward from here today as our newest citizens.
In turn by our laws and our traditions we commit to continue to recognise the personal rights of you as individuals in a proud nation which greatly values inclusion, tolerance and diversity.
Over the course of today, over 2,000 new citizens will be welcomed to the Irish family. Since the introduction of Citizenship ceremonies 5 years ago, over 95,000 persons from every continent, every region and more than 170 countries have become new citizens of Ireland. I find it amazing that amid all the turmoil of the recession years, the drama of the bailout and the Troika programme, thousands of people were taking huge strides in their lives here in this very building, all the while.
Our society has been enriched to that extent - 95,000 citizens - over the past five years and it will be enriched further today. I think we all deserve a round of applause for that….
Finally, I wish to congratulate you, one and all, on becoming our newest Irish citizens – we welcome you to our national family.
I now formally introduce Judge McMahon and call on him to administer the declaration, in which you publicly declare your Fidelity to our Nation and Loyalty to our State as well as undertaking to faithfully observe the laws of the State and respect its democratic values.