Enda rolls out welcome mat for our newest citizens, Mary and Rita
MARY from Bangladesh and Rita from India officially became Irish citizens yesterday.
The two women already had a touch of the Irish before they even set foot on these shores almost a decade ago.
"People used to ask me, 'are you from India?', but now I can tell them I'm Irish-Indian and very proud," said a beaming Rita Singh.
Rita Singh and Mary Hossain were among a group of 150 people drawn from around the world who were sworn in as Irish citizens at a ceremony in Dublin.
And, unlike the rest of the ceremonies taking place at Cathal Brugha Barracks during the day, they had a special surprise guest -- Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Mr Kenny officially welcomed the migrants "to your Irish family" before the Army Band struck up a rousing chorus of 'Amhran na bhFiann'.
It's all a long way from how Rita's husband, Satbinder, became an Irish citizen 10 years ago -- standing before a judge in a draughty courthouse in Temple Bar.
"This is much more special," he said after watching his wife collect her certificate of citizenship.
For Mary, who lives in Oranmore, Co Galway, it was a long wait. She has been living here for over a decade and spent almost two and a half of those years waiting for her citizenship application to be processed.
However, that was all forgotten as she and her son Arbfin (2) enjoyed meeting Mr Kenny yesterday.
Meanwhile, Cynthiya Balasundaram, a nurse in Dublin's Beaumont Hospital and from India, has a lot to thank Ireland for -- it's where she met her husband and where her daughter was born.
"I met him in front of The Spire. One of my classmates came over to me and Arun was with him. It was love at first sight for me," she laughed.
They are now parents to two-year-old Katie.
"She was born in the Rotunda prematurely. She's had heart surgery since, but she's a tough little fighter," said Cynthiya.
Also watching her mother being sworn in as an Irish citizen yesterday was little Petra Adeniranye (3), who proudly clutched mum Helen's certificate.
Meanwhile, husband and wife Jun Yi Tao and He Huang, from China, were sworn in as Irish citizens standing side by side. She said they had finally caught up with their daughters, who are Irish citizens already -- Angie (7) and three-year-old twins Ashling and Alison.
She revealed that now that the whole family will be Irish passport holders, they will be able to go on holidays to Europe together.
The ceremonies continue today and, over the two days, 2,250 people from 110 countries will be granted Irish citizenship.
Mr Kenny said that, when his Government came to power last March, there was a backlog of 22,000 citizenship applications with an average waiting time of 25 months before a decision was made.
He said he expects this backlog to be cleared shortly and, in the future, wants citizenship applications to be decided in no longer than six months.