A SIX-year-old African girl is preparing to travel to Ireland to begin a new life after DNA tests proved she is the daughter of an Irish soldier.
Martina Padwick and her mother, Martha Woldu Hagos, learned a week ago that tests had proved conclusively she is the daughter of Cork-born soldier, Martin Padwick who died in December 2002, before his child was born.
Mother and daughter have been living in poverty in Eritrea as they battle to have Martina recognised as an Irish citizen.
In the past few days, Dublin-based solicitor Anthony Joyce, who has been acting for free on behalf of the girl, has completed an application for an Irish passport for her. Martha will also be able to travel with her as the mother of an Irish citizen.
Mr Joyce is also trying to confirm whether the girl is entitled to any of her father's pension.
Some of that money could then be used to bring Martina to Ireland.
A spokesman for Mr Joyce's legal firm said: "The wheels are being put in motion to bring Martina to Ireland."
Martin Padwick was on a tour of duty with the UN peacekeeping mission in Eritrea in 2002 when he met Martha, who was working in the Irish Army's kitchens in the compound in the capital, Asmara.
They began a relationship and Martha became pregnant. However, the soldier had to return to Ireland before the child's birth in June 2003. But he died shortly after hs return and never got to meet his daughter.
Martha has been struggling to have her daughter recognised as an Irish citizen since her birth, but it wasn't until Mr Joyce became involved last year that the case finally started to progress.
Last week she learned the results of DNA tests which proved Martina's paternity.
Martha has faced discrimination in Eritrea for being the mother of a mixed-race child.
At one stage, the situation was so bad that she considered putting her daughter in an orphanage where she would have guaranteed food and shelter.
Mr Joyce said Martina's wasn't the only case of its kind. However, other impoverished mothers of Irish-fathered children in Eritrea are unable to negotiate the bureaucracy and raise the passport application fee.
"We know that there are other children in Eritrea who are Irish citizens but are unable to deal with the bureaucracy and who are living in poverty.
"What this case highlights is the difficulties of trying to claim citizenship," he added.