It is an honour and a privilege to have been accepted by Ireland. Formally by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence (still tickled by the idea of that trinity), but also by many generous friends and colleagues I have had the pleasure to know over the years. I had a warm affection for the idea of Ireland before I first came here in the 1980s. The reality of the levels of poverty I encountered in mid 1980s Dublin and County Cork was admittedly a bit of a shock, but the warmth of the people, the richness of the culture and the smoothness of the Guinness helped make me feel welcome.
Sadly Frank Jennings who was integral to my introduction to Irish culture did not live to see this somewhat strange fruit of his generosity, but he remains an inspiration. His life was an example of what citizenship should mean.
I have now worked in Dublin for almost 10 years. I will always be Scottish. I hope I will also one day be a citizen of a Scottish Republic. I will certainly work for that. But Ireland has captured part of my heart and will now always be my first Republic.
As I have travelled the world on behalf of Front Line Defenders these last 10 years many people I meet have assumed that I am Irish because we are based in Dublin (and they hear I have an accent even if they don’t quite place it). It has sometimes been useful not to correct the misapprehension. In Kabul I confess I actively asserted my Irishness.
Applying for Irish citizenship though was about much more than seeking to evade association with illegal British wars, hypocrisy, the imperial legacy or perceived arrogance. It was also about admiration for what has won Ireland a positive reputation, including support for peace, human rights, democracy, internationalism and self-determination.
It is also about becoming a citizen and not a subject. About dignity, equality, rights and responsibilities. About joining the country I work in and hopefully contributing, in some small way, to our future.