I don’t know what the saying “Kiss me, I’m Irish” is actually supposed to mean. A google search reveals that it’s something to do with the Blarney Stone. I remember it being on St. Patrick’s Day decorations and T-shirts when I was a kid. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an actual Irish person say it. But, the saying is oddly apt (“for the day that’s in it” – an actual Irish phrase I’ve heard people say) because…
I AM IRISH!
On Monday, 20th June in Killarney, County Kerry, I took the oath of citizenship along with approximately 450 other people. It was very special, made perhaps even more special because this was the first in-person citizenship ceremony in two years, since covid put a stop to so many things. I had to cut a work trip short and make my way to County Kerry on Sunday so I was there for the ceremony on Monday morning. At first I found this rather annoying. Other friends, during covid restrictions, were able to get their naturalization certificate via post – why couldn’t I do that?! It would certainly have been easier and more convenient.
But when I arrived at the Killarney convention centre and sat amongst all the other citizenship candidates, the excitement and joy was palpable. There were young people and elderly people. People of every color of the rainbow. I heard so many different accents and different languages being spoken. All of us had our own story that brought us to this place and this moment. And we were all about to become Irish, together.
I may or may not have gotten a bit teary as we recited the Declaration of Fidelity. This is my third citizenship but the first one in which I’ve had to make such an oath. I was born in the US, so got that citizenship automatically. I had to work hard to get my Italian citizenship but that was to get my citizenship recognized, not granted – I’d always been an Italian citizen. With my Irish citizenship it’s different – it’s a privilege, not a right. It’s something I wanted and chose to pursue, rather than something I just always had. It was a conscious choice, and a choice I’m so glad I made.
In the packet of materials we got on the day of the ceremony, along with our Naturalization Certificate, a copy of the Irish Constitution and an Irish flag pin, there was a letter from the Minister for Justice. The last two paragraphs pretty much sum up why this day was so special and why it is my absolute privilege and joy to now be Irish:
It’s important to know that becoming an Irish citizen does not mean giving up your identity from your homeland. It is an integral part of who you are and how you have come to be here today. We want you to share your culture, traditions and stories with us. Over time they will become part of the fabric of our soceity and we will be richer for it.
Today marks the start of a new chapter in your life, one that you have chosen to share with us, your fellow Irish citizens. We will celebrate your achievements, support you in difficult times and ensure that you always have a place to call home.
So yeah – kiss me, I’m Irish!