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The granting of citizenship to a person who has come to our country from a foreign land is a major event in his or her life. It is a time of celebration, a rite of passage and a moment for all of you to cherish. It is also a solemn event for this State in granting it.
This is the first time that I have represented the Government at a Citizenship Ceremony. As the son of an Indian migrant who married an Irish woman, came here to live, worked hard, contributed to his community, and became an Irish citizen too, it is a very proud moment for me to able to greet you on your first day as an Irish citizen.
The Minister for Justice and Equality is, in law, given the duty of deciding who should be awarded the privilege of citizenship. In doing so, he must carefully apply the citizenship laws enacted by our Parliament and consider the individual circumstances of those who seek Irish citizenship. That duty is taken very seriously, as he acts on behalf of all Irish people in deciding who should be granted the privilege of Irish citizenship. Citizenship is not awarded lightly and it is right that it’s granting is marked by a sense of occasion that serves to underscore its importance to you, the person receiving it, and to us who, on behalf of the people of Ireland, grant it to you.
You have come to our country and have chosen to live among us and today, after a long journey, we welcome you to our nation as its newest citizens and we hope that you will continue to contribute to our communities, to our neighbourhoods and to our society. As a people, we have been enriched by your presence and, in making you citizens of our ancient and proud land, we are acknowledging that contribution.
Our ceremony today is greatly enhanced by the presence of Bryan McMahon, a highly respected lawyer and recently retired High Court Judge and a greatly respected patron of the arts. Bryan will lend great dignity to the proceedings in his role as presiding officer and his presence will signify in a very public way the importance of the occasion. I want to thank you most sincerely, Bryan, for taking on this task.
I referred earlier to the length of time that many of you here today will have waited for your citizenship applications to be processed. When the new Government came into office on 9th March 2011 there was a backlog of approximately 22,000 citizenship applications awaiting decision, approximately 17,000 of which had been waiting for in excess of six months with an average waiting time of 25 months. Some, indeed, had waited longer.
It is entirely inappropriate, and completely out of step with other countries, that people wishing to become Irish citizens should be required to wait an average of 25 months for a decision on their application
On taking up office, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter TD, immediately initiated steps within his Department to deal with the huge backlog of citizenship applications. Over 16,000 applications were dealt with in 2011, more than double the number dealt with in 2010. Since the start of 2012 the Minister has made determinations on almost 3,000 applications.
It is expected that the current backlog will be dealt with in the next couple of months. From that time on the objective is that, under new measures announced on 16th June, save in exceptional circumstances, persons applying for citizenship will be given a decision on their application within six months.
This week, over the course of two days, more than 2,250 candidates for citizenship from 110 countries across five continents will have their applications granted here in Cathal Brugha Barracks. Our ceremony today on the award of citizenship is maintaining in a very public way one of the very potent and powerful manifestations of our independence as a nation.
The history of this State is now your history and the narrative of your life is now part of our history. For those of you granted citizenship today your future is now interwoven with the future of this State, its citizens across the globe and, in particular, all of us who live on this island.
I wish to congratulate you, one and all, on becoming our newest Irish Citizens – we welcome you to our national family.
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport Press Office Tel: (01) 604 1076 / (01) 604 1090
Contact: Nick Miller 086 6992080