Saturday 19 October 2019

It's official... 'honorary Irishman' coach Joe is granted citizenship

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald with Ireland rugby team manager Joe Schmidt
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald with Ireland rugby team manager Joe Schmidt
Olly Hodges of the IRFU and his wife Emer
Leinster and Ireland star Richardt Strauss with his wife Megan during a citizenship ceremony at the Department of Justice and Equality in Dublin yesterday. Photos: Gareth Chaney
Robin Schiller

Robin Schiller

He has long been considered an honorary Irishman in the eyes of rugby fans. But Ireland's head coach Joe Schmidt was made an official Irish citizen in a special ceremony organised by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The New Zealand-born coach received his certificate alongside referee Olly Hodges, who is originally from Australia, as well as Leinster and Ireland's South African-born prop Richardt Strauss.

The ceremony took place at the Department of Justice and Equality, where the men had the Declaration of Fidelity to the Irish Nation and Loyalty to the State administered to them by Judge Bryan McMahon, a retired member of the High Court.

Schmidt, Strauss and Hodges could apply for Irish citizenship having lived here for five years.

The process is known as 'naturalisation', and applicants must fit a criteria laid out by the Government in order to be granted citizenship.

Schmidt, who recently signed a contract extending his current tenure until 2017, said the naturalisation process has made him feel more Irish.

"I do (feel more Irish). I think it brings me a little closer and that connection.

"I feel a little bit Irish anyway, and our family now also has a bit of Irishness about it," Schmidt said.

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Welcoming the new citizens, Ms Fitzgerald said the ceremony was "a bit different" to the larger scale events that are normally held for new citizens.

So far 84,000 have received their citizenship through the naturalisation process.

"We're welcoming new citizens today who have already contributed to Ireland's sense of itself.

"People in rugby tell me that Joe does an untold amount of work behind the scenes to support grassroots rugby in Ireland, quietly declining offered payment," she said.

"As key members of the Irish rugby management and team Joe, Oliver and Richardt have, time and time again lifted the mood of the nation, made us proud to be Irish. Today, you go a step further.

"It indicates commitment to the wider team that is New Ireland. From today, you too, will be proud to be Irish," Ms Fitzgerald added.

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