WITH tears in her eyes and a celebratory tea party on her mind, Eoyin Kassim was officially an Irish citizen – but more than that, she was a "free woman".
"That is what this means for me – I am a free woman," she declared emphatically.
"I can go to vote. I can seek the opportunities like everybody else. I am now a full part of Ireland."
One of 4,000 new Irish citizens who received their certificates of naturalisation in ceremonies at the National Convention Centre yesterday, Eoyin told how it was very emotional for her.
She had left her original home in Nigeria in 2002 with her three children, now aged 11, 15 and 26. Life was extremely difficult there, but she refuses to dwell on that now and believes strongly that Ireland was always her predestined home.
"I believe this is what God had designed for me," she said.
"I was from Nigeria, but I am from Ireland now and I am very happy," she said proudly.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter quipped to candidates before the ceremony that after all the recent rain, it was not too late for them to change their minds about seeking citizenship of Ireland.
More seriously, he told them the decision to apply to become an Irish citizen is not one taken lightly and that while it is a major event in their lives, it is also a major event for Ireland as the host nation in bestowing this honour upon them.
"As Minister for Justice and Equality, I have the responsibility and duty on behalf of the Irish nation to ensure that the grant of citizenship is given in accordance with the laws of our country," he said.
"Each application is given careful consideration and I take each decision to grant, or indeed to refuse, citizenship very seriously indeed."
He said it was a life-altering event not only for the new citizens but "for generations yet to come" in their families.