I saw something last month that has been playing on my mind a great deal. I know it shouldn’t and that I may be accused of ‘raining on someone else’s parade’ but I can’t seem to be able to let it go. I am talking about Citizenship Ceremonies. These are celebratory events, where those who have been successful in earning Irish Citizenship (no easy task), gather to have their citizenship conferred in a collective and convivial manner. There is pomp and there is ceremony and the enthusiasm of the participants is obvious to all observers. It appeared to be an occasion of great joy.
What then could possibly cause me unease? Well there are three things. First the Oath, second the emotion and the third, the actual level of citizenship being conferred.
“…hereby solemnly declare my fidelity to the Irish nation and my loyalty to the State.”
Fidelity and loyalty to the Nation and the State? The closest equivalent oath, that I can think of, is one of marriage. It is an oath I have never been expected to take and it is an oath I would most certainly never make. I have no loyalty to the Irish State. My loyalty is to me and to a system of laws that I think benefit me. When those laws work against my best interests I will leave or simply break those laws. The important point however, is that my citizenship does not depend on my loyalty. I can write, say or do anything and my citizenship remains unchanged. In our Dáil are men and women, who were part of an organisation that murdered members of our security forces. Murdered agents of this State, yet their citizenship is unassailable. They were born to it, thus they and everyone else born on this Island (if born to the correct parents) do not have to demonstrate any fidelity or loyalty to Ireland. Some members of our Dáil have promised to break the law regarding Property Taxes. Would an oath of fidelity and loyalty prevent them from engaging in such an action?
As for the emotion on display? It would be churlish of me to criticize anyone for being more than a little relieved and joyful that their status as a citizen, of this country, has been finalised. Any and all fears of deportation ended. Family security gained and the prospect of a forced return to danger, ended. I am fortunate to never have had such a real and visceral cause for celebration. I struggle to even imagine the relief many of the new citizens must feel. I may denigrate this nation for its many faults, but while I do so, I remain fully cognisant of the fact that there are whole swathes of this planet that I would consider uninhabitable. Places many of the new citizens once endured. It is the fostering of an emotional attachment to a nation that causes me to find fault. A fierce intellectual and yes, emotional adherence to the principals of democracy, justice and a system of laws is, I think, the higher calling. The more noble joy. This island is not a relatively good place to live because we are Irish, it is because it is a nation where we have no need to fear a knock on our door, in the dead of night, from the agents of the State. We are Nation where the agents of the State have cause to fear cameras. A Nation where the agents of the State must rely on our cooperation. A Nation where the agents of the State can be offered contempt if they earn such. A Nation where the agents of the State are temporary. These facets of democracy are to be celebrated, not a quasi religious tribalism.
That joy should also be tempered by the fact that naturalisation does not confer on the new citizens, the same level of citizenship as those of us who did nothing to earn it. The only way I can lose my citizenship is by formally renouncing it. A new citizen however…
The Minister for Justice and Equality can revoke your certificate of naturalisation if:
- You obtained it through fraud, misrepresentation or concealment of material facts or circumstances
- You have, through an overt act, failed in your duty of fidelity to the nation and loyalty to the State
- You were ordinarily resident outside Ireland (other than in public service) for a continuous period of 7 years and, without a reasonable excuse, did not register your name and a declaration of your intention to retain Irish citizenship with an Irish diplomatic mission or consular office or with the Minister for Justice and Equality on an annual basis
- You are also, under the law of a country at war with the State, a citizen of that country
- You have, by any other voluntary act other than marriage or registration of civil partnership, acquired citizenship of another country.
Some of these provisions are reasonable, yet singularly and collectively, they place, on the new citizens, a burden and curtailment, that no Irish born citizen has to endure. Murder, organised crime, doctrinaire disloyalty and civil disobedience are not enough to cause an Irish born citizen to lose or even have questioned, their citizenship.
Until we have a situation where a person who has applied for citizenship of this jurisdiction, is informed by a terse letter, that they are now free to display the same level of contempt for and enjoy the same level of protection from, this State, as anyone born to their citizenship is entitled to, then I will remain of the opinion that we are continuing to deny the new citizens the full experience and legality of Irish Citizenship.