On welcoming, the Irish way

Ed Forry

By Ed Forry

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

From “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus

For much of the last three months, Americans have followed the sad and tragic story of a group of impoverished people making their way to our country to escape the abundant dangers they have lived with in Central America. The despot who lives in the White House has characterized them with all manner of invective: bad hombres, dangerous criminals, invaders hellbent on destroying our American way of life.
His strategy is to dehumanize them, scaring up images of a caravan of criminals seeking to invade our southern lands, infiltrate our country, and disrupt the American way of life.
In the build-up to the mid-term elections, American troops were mobilized and sent to the border towns, with instructions to shoot to kill, never mind that the Central Americans are largely asylum seekers, entitled to entry and legal review. Sadly, the Republicans in Washington have remained silent about the president’s diabolical scheme.
A Catholic priest, Father Jim Martin, had this to say in a recent column in the Jesuit weekly America: “What does the Bible say about how we're supposed to treat migrants and refugees? It's clear: Welcome them. Not welcome them when it's convenient to you, when they have papers, when you can afford it, or when there's no risk involved to you. No, according to both the Old and the New Testaments: Welcome them.”
Contrast the hateful American government response to people seeking refuge within its borders to a Nov. 26 ceremony in Ireland, where more than 3,000 individuals from 120 countries became Irish citizens in a stirring naturalization ceremony in a large Co. Kerry function hall in Killarney.
In a report about the event, the Irish government said: “The Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton TD, was joined by the Minister for Finance & Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD, in congratulating 3,000 new Irish citizens across three citizenship ceremonies at the Convention Centre in Killarney today. The Presiding Officers at the ceremonies were Retired High Court Judge Bryan McMahon and Retired District Court Judge Paddy McMahon.
“Addressing the new citizens, Minister Donohoe said: ‘It is a great privilege for me to be here with you in Killarney, on this very special day, the day on which Irish citizenship will be formally conferred on you during this simple but solemn ceremony. Becoming a citizen of one’s country goes to the essence of our democracy and constitutional principles. Together with your families and with your friends here today, we join with you in celebrating this major event in your life.’”
It was a day of celebration in many places across Ireland. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar posted on his twitter account, “Killarney today: 3,000 new citizens sworn in. Since 2011, about 120,000 people have become Irish citizens, strengthening our economy, running our public services, and enriching our society. Congratulations.”
Among the top ten of the nationalities welcomed that day were those from Poland, 586; the United Kingdom, 312; Romania, 280; India, 214; Nigeria, 175; Philippines,118; Pakistan, 115; Latvia. 113; Brazil, 90; and China (including Hong Kong), 84.
Some analysts say England’s Brexit divorce from the EU has led to an increase in decisions to apply for Irish citizenship. On Twitter, one Englishman said, "I have grandparents from the Donegal coastline, so I will now apply for Irish citizenship. The U.K. is a busted flush, the English electorate now proven to be xenophobic. I want dual Scottish/Irish citizenship and to remain as a European citizen, too."
For decades many Americans with Irish roots have sought "dual citizenship” while keeping their American status. Under Irish law, you are not required to give up citizenship of another country to become an Irish citizen. But these new Irishmen and Irishwomen have been welcomed by a country well known for its greeting – Céad Míle Fáilte- a hundred thousand welcomes.
In all, a lot more welcoming than a canister of tear gas, wouldn’t you say?