'Ireland is home now' - new citizens rejoice at University of Limerick ceremony

DIVERSITY:  OVER 100,000 NEW CITIZENS OF IRELAND IN SIX YEARS AS PASSPORT DEMAND GROWS

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

'Ireland is home now' - new citizens rejoice at University of Limerick ceremony

Dougie Howlett and his wife Monique Howlett, who received her Irish citizenship at a ceremony in the University of Limerick Pictures: True Media

THE WIFE of Munster rugby star Dougie Howlett has spoken of her pride at becoming an Irish citizen at a ceremony at the University of Limerick.

Mother of five Monique Howlett said it was a “very proud moment” to finally join the ranks of her New Zealand-born husband, who was made an Irish citizen in 2014, and their five Irish-born children.

“It’s a great occasion,” beamed Mr Howlett, who moved here with his family 10 years ago.

She was one of 355 new citizens of the State this Monday, following a citizenship ceremony in the University of Limerick, the first to be held outside of Dublin and Cork.

The newly appointed Minister for Justice & Equality, Charlie Flanagan, led the citizens in their pledge of “fidelity to the Irish nation and loyalty to the Irish state”.

Minister Flanagan said it was “truly remarkable” that in just six years over 100,000 people from every continent and more than 170 countries have become Irish citizens.

Their connection to this “tiny island” at the edge of Europe is a “common thread that unites and binds all of us together,” he said.

The presiding officer of the day, retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon, said he hopes that Ireland, “a nation of immigrants”, will see its new sons and daughters one day leading their county team out on Croke Park.

Expectant mother Nusrat Belly, from Bangladesh, said she too was looking forward to following in the footsteps of her daughter Humayra and husband Mohammed, who are both Irish citizens.

“This means a lot to me. I am so happy. Ireland is definitely home now,” said the Killarney resident, who moved to Ireland eight years ago.

Dr Imran Sulaiman, from London and now living in Dublin, said while his motivation to become an Irish citizen is because his wife is Irish, he admitted that “Brexit has pushed me a little. I could have become Irish sooner, but it’s a great feeling here today. I just wish my wife was here to celebrate with me.”

Love also led Jason Taylor from Australia, as he met his wife-to-be Sarah in Syndey once she had finished college and took a year out to travel.

Victoria Taidan, from Moldova, was also the last in her family to receive Irish citizenship, having moved to Galway aged 12. “I have felt Irish for a very long time,” she enthused.

Now, she has her papers to prove it.