Speech delivered by
Mr Charlie Flanagan, TD. Minister for Justice and Equality
9 December 2019
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great privilege for me to be here with you in Killarney, on this very special day, the day on which Irish citizenship will be formally conferred on you during this simple but solemn ceremony.
You have already been welcomed by An Taoiseach. I extend a warm welcome to you too.
I am so glad that this ceremony is being held. I’m sure that the last few months as we awaited the judgment from the Court of Appeal has been a stressful time for you all, for your families and your friends. At times, you must have thought that there was no possibility of you actually becoming an Irish citizen in 2019. But you managed it; we managed it; and here you all are. It makes today very special. And I hope that you will celebrate it as a joyous and momentous occasion.
I have no doubt that as you do that, you will want to join with me in thanking the staff in my own Department who have put this day together. It was such short notice for everyone involved. But once the Court judgment was received, they were determined to make sure that your citizenship was confirmed without delay. And they have worked tirelessly over the last few weeks to issue the invitations and to organise today’s ceremony.
Becoming a citizen of one’s country goes to the essence of our democracy and constitutional principles – principles which I as a Minister of this Government have the honour to uphold.
The personalised letter of congratulations you will find in your packs from An Taoiseach is just another indication of the significance we all, in government, place on this day.
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. And be sure, too, that this State is a place of diversity and openness.
The people of Ireland are committed to respecting all traditions on this island equally. We 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… at the heart of the European family of nations.
It is important, however, that we do not become complacent and that we continue to keep integration to the fore.
Back in 2017 this Government launched a new Migrant Integration Strategy which provides the framework for Government action on migrant integration for the years 2017 to 2020.
The strategy addresses the challenges that we anticipate in the years ahead and is aimed at all new comers to our shores. It is also aimed at our own citizens with the primary objective of ensuring that barriers to full participation in Irish society are identified and addressed and the basic values of Irish society are respected by all. Ultimately, it’s about building a society where we all live in harmony while at the same time respecting our cultural or religious differences.
The dignity and solemnity of today’s ceremony is greatly enhanced by the presence of Judge 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 Lt Matthew Kennedy, also underlines the solemnity and importance of the ceremony.
Over the course of today, 2,000 new citizens will be welcomed to the Irish family. Since the introduction of Citizenship ceremonies 8 years ago, almost 120,000 persons from every continent, every region and more than 180 countries have become new citizens of Ireland.
It is truly remarkable that this tiny island at the edge of Western Europe facing into the Atlantic Ocean which is home to us all has, as its citizens, as members of the national family, people who came to live with us from every country on this planet. I think we all deserve a round of applause for that….
You are now beginning a new journey and a new phase of your life.
As a new Irish citizen, you will of course be able to do the things which are reserved for citizens…get an Irish passport, vote … but while those things might be important, at a much deeper level you are doing something else…. You are affirming your commitment to the values we cherish most and which are rooted in our history.
You are also affirming your support for our sense of mutual responsibility to one another as citizens of this country. By being citizens you are part of a common thread which unites and binds all of us.
After today you will have the same rights, the same duties and the same responsibilities as every other Irish citizen.
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 Minister for Justice and Equality, or as Judge, or perhaps the President of Ireland.
We ask you, as we ask all our citizens, to recognise those possibilities, duties, rights and responsibilities, and to participate actively in our communities, to be good citizens, and to uphold the law.
As you leave here today, as proud new citizens of this Republic and constitutional democracy, our history is your history and, in turn, the narrative of your life is now part of our history.
So can I 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 upon him to address you and then 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.