The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee welcomed Ireland's newest citizens via Zoom this evening, with restrictions on large gatherings in place citizenship ceremonies have not been able to take place for the past year.
The ceremony is an integral part of the citizenship process with applicants required to attend the ceremony usually held in Killarney.
However, the Minister opened the temporary statutory declaration process in January 2021, where applicants no longer need to be present at the ceremony, and tonight’s virtual event was a celebration of the new citizens.
Hosted from the Round Room in Dublin's Mansion House the celebration featured stories from some of the 1,700 people who are new citizens, including Dr Naveed Abbas who has worked on the frontline as a Doctor in Portlaoise.
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Dr Abbas, who is originally from Pakistan, said he did not expect to be so emotional when watching the celebration online and sent the Zoom link to many of his relatives and friends who also watched.
He said his citizenship process has taken him almost five years, which was much longer than he expected.
"For someone who has waited close to five years, there is a lot of relief but considering what I was expecting to feel and what I am feeling, elation is taking the front seat here," he said.
The Minister for Justice said the department is working on the backlog of citizenship applications.
"I do appreciate that this would have taken longer for some people than they would have liked or anticipated," she said she would like to thank people for their patience.
"We're working through quite a significant backlog that has been built up just in the last year, we have engaged with 4,000 people to date and by June we hope to have engaged with over 6,500 people," she said.
This was the Minister's last event before maternity leave, she said she hopes in-person ceremonies will recommence in December.