Shatter: Citizenship takes too long
Justice Minister Alan Shatter has told Ireland's first citizenship ceremony that many immigrants were forced to wait too long to become full Irish citizens.
In the first official event of its kind at Dublin Castle, 73 people from 24 countries publicly declared loyalty and fidelity to the nation as their new home. Many of them were joined by family and friends for the celebration.
After the vow before retired High Court judge Bryan McMahon, Mr Shatter presented each of them with a certificate of naturalisation, which constitutionally recognises them as citizens of Ireland.
"You have waited a long time for this moment - too long in many cases," said Mr Shatter.
"You came to our country and chose to live among us; we welcome you and we hope that you will continue to contribute to our communities, to our neighbourhood 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."
Mr Shatter said the granting of citizenship was quite clearly a major event in their lives, a time of celebration, a rite of passage and a moment for them to cherish.
The justice minister said he had slashed the huge backlog of citizenship applications since coming to office and expected to have it completely cleared by spring next year. There are still 13,500 applications awaiting decisions for more than six months.
There are also plans to recruit more people under the new government internship programme to help speed up the naturalisation process, he revealed.
Mr Shatter said the historic pilot ceremony in Dublin Castle would be the first of many such events welcoming immigrants into the "national family".