I got some great news last week. I achieved a long and deeply-held ambition. I fulfilled a dream. I completed a circle.
I received a call from the Irish Embassy in London telling me I was to be granted Irish citizenship.
Ninety-nine years since my grandfather was born in Wexford before coming to Liverpool, I am to join my beautiful wife and daughter as a citizen of Ireland. All three of us – born in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – hold dual nationality.
I feel incredibly lucky to be part of these two great countries. I was born in Liverpool – some would say that is practically Ireland (!) – into a catholic family with the names Redmond and Maloney around every corner. Throughout the last ten years I have been increasingly aware that although very proud of the country of my birth and the freedoms, choices and opportunities it has offered me, I have felt a deep affection for all things Irish; people, culture, sport and history. I feel even luckier now that I can express this love of both countries in a formal, recognised way; holding citizenship and a passport for both.
In the Spring of last year, I heard President Higgins speak at an extraordinary Ceiliuradh (celebration) event at the Royal Albert Hall in London to mark his State Visit to the UK. His speech deeply moved me, especially this passage;
“This celebration, above all, is in a special way for the thousands of Irish people in this Hall who have made Britain their home or whose parents or grandparents did, as well as the friends, neighbours, relatives and in-laws, they have brought along.
I thank you most sincerely for the fidelity you have shown to Ireland over many years; for the contribution you have made to the development of Britain; and for your part in the consolidation of an enduring friendship between our two countries.
You remain and will always be a cherished member of the Irish family. I thank all of you who have travelled to be here, be your journeys long or short.”
For as long as I can remember I considered myself a member of the 100 million-strong Irish diaspora. From this point on, I can also claim something formal which makes official what I have long felt – I am Irish! In the words of Andy Irvine, ‘my heart tonight’s in Ireland’ – I now have the paperwork to prove it!