Kiss me, I’m Irish!

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!

Citizenship Quest Continued…

I’ve written a couple times in this blog about my quest for Irish citizenship – it’s been a bit of a roller coater and I haven’t even submitted my application yet. There was a controversy last year when a judge ruled you couldn’t travel outside Ireland at all in the year previous to your application – something that would have been nearly impossible for me. But then, relief! The judgement was overturned and now, travel of up to six weeks in the year previous to your application was allowed. Great! It would be hard, but I could manage six weeks.

And then Covid hit and everything changed for everybody. Amidst all the fear and worry and hand-washing, I realized that 2020 was going to be a year of no travel for me. Despite some grand plans for both work and play travel, I have been in Ireland since I returned from my Christmas holiday on January 5th. I’d have less than six weeks of travel this year no problem – heck, I’ve got less that six days of travel so far this year. And after not accepting new applications for several months because of Covid closures and restrictions, I got word last week that they are now accepting citizenship applications again! Yes! It’s still a bit nerve-wracking because I have to include my current original passport with the application and being without it feels like being without my right arm. They cannot guarantee how long it will take to get my passport back but did assure me it should be in plenty of time for my (hopeful!) travel to see my family in December. 

Luckily, my application has been nearly ready to go for a while now and I’ve just got a few last bits to do. I’ve asked my three Irish friends I’ve known the longest (since nearly my first day in Ireland) to be my references. It’s a bit trickier since I can’t see any of them in person, but the filled-out forms should be back to me via post this week. Then, I just need to get passport photos taken, a bank draft for the application fee and everything notarized. All going well, the application will be off early next week at the latest. And then I wait – for how long is anybody’s guess. 

A lot of people ask me why I want my Irish citizenship, which I suppose is a fair question. My fellow expat friends who have gotten their Irish citizenship were living here with US passports, so it’s obvious why an Irish passport would be a good thing. But I’ve got Italian citizenship and many wonder why I would bother getting Irish citizenship, since Italy is in the EU. A big reason is Brexit. Ireland and the UK have an arrangement called the Common Travel Area that pre-dates the EU. Under the CTA, Irish citizens have the right to live, travel, work and study in the UK. Despite all of this Brexit foolishness, access to the UK is something that would be beneficial to me. And more broadly, according to the Henley Passport Index, the Irish passport is number one in the Global Passport Power Rankings (along with Belgium, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Japan and New Zealand.) Italy is part of the number two ranking and for those wondering, the US is way down at number 20 – oh how the mighty have fallen.  

I would also like to be able to vote in any and all elections in Ireland. I’m able to vote in some as a resident, but not all. I live here, I have a vested interest in what happens here – I want to be able to vote. Ireland has had some pretty huge referendums in that past few years (gay marriage, abortion) and, while the votes did go the way I hoped, I would have liked to be part of this Irish history. 

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, I want my Irish citizenship because Ireland is my home now. I’ve lived here for nearly eight years. I just bought a home here. While I don’t deal in “forevers”, I do see myself living here for the foreseeable future. So, I want to be a citizen of the place I call home. I want to be Irish. 

 

Citizenship denied?

I’ve been back in Dublin for three months now and it’s been pretty great. Work is crazy and exciting and I love it. Though I miss my Paris friends, I love being back with my Dublin tribe. I love the apartment I’m renting and am now even looking for a place to buy. So, obviously, there’s a lot to love, and I’m confident that I made the right decision in returning.

I feel like Ireland is home and because it’s now home, I want to be an Irish citizen. Getting my Irish citizenship has always been part of my plan, even though I technically don’t need it. I have Italian citizenship and since Ireland and Italy are both part of the European Union, I can live and work here without a visa. So, Irish citizenship is more of a want for me than a need.

But this past week there was a crazy court ruling stating that an individual has to be physically in Ireland continuously for the entire year previous to submitting their application. That means one can’t venture outside Ireland for even ONE DAY or they risk their citizenship being denied. That’s insane. Such a stipulation had always been part of the citizenship criteria but applicants could be outside Ireland for up to six weeks in that last year. This interpretation of the law is almost laughably literal.

Except that for many, it isn’t the least bit funny. People, including myself, have to travel for work. There are at least three work trips I need to take each year, often many, many more. I literally cannot do my job if I am not allowed to travel outside the country. And this also means there’s no visiting family or friends who live outside Ireland. You couldn’t leave to attend a wedding, no Christmas visits and god forbid there’s a funeral. And then there’s travel just for travel’s sake. My citizenship is going to be denied because there are other places in this world I want to explore?! I honestly get claustrophobic just thinking about not being able to travel anywhere for an entire year.

So, I just won’t get my Irish citizenship. As I said, I don’t need it. But there are a lot of people who do and this strict interpretation is going to seriously impact their lives. Many people need their Irish citizenship to stay in the country, never mind that they’ve earned it. So, it’s either rearrange your life for the next year, if you can – or don’t become an Irish citizen. For many, that’s an impossible choice.

It’s widely assumed that this ruling is going to be overturned on appeal but after Trump and Brexit, I’ve learned that one cannot assume such things. Trump and Brexit have also let loose a staggering amount of anti-immigrant rhetoric and downright racism. The new wildly racist, Trump-coined catchphrase making its way across America is “Send her back!”. Isn’t that just lovely, in a skin-crawling, rage-inducing kind of way? I like to think that Ireland is above this, but I also thought that there was no way Trump would get elected or that the UK would vote to leave the EU.

So, until and if this ruling is overturned my dream of Irish citizenship is on hold. I can deal with it but I am truly concerned for those who can’t.

There’s a petition making the rounds here. Please consider signing it if you are so inclined.