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Column: 'I remember having to ask for the brown paint for my self-portrait in junior infants'

To receive my citizenship a few days before the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment was a nice moment, writes Nicholas Ndlovu.

ON MAY 21 I became an Irish citizen. Living in Ireland for 18 out of 22 years, this day was something less significant to me than to many of the other recipients as I had not relocated by choice.

I had not given up a life elsewhere. Even the little bit of adjustment I had to get used to was nothing in comparison to the experience of others.

I arrived aged four from Johannesburg, South Africa and settled in Wicklow. The biggest shock was the lack of shops, parks, cinemas and McDonald’s. English was my first language so I didn’t have to learn that.

Children don’t grasp the concept of race or racism so I had an easy run. One thing I remember was having to ask for the brown paint for my self-portrait when I was in junior infants but beyond this I felt right at home.

My mother’s experience

Comparing this now to my mother’s experience is vastly different. She was the one who filled out all the forms, got the required stamps and met the standards, all while putting up with the bigoted people with a lot to say but little to contribute.

Meanwhile I just grew up, went to school, did as the other kids did while being enlisted in the GAA. By the time I had decided to apply for naturalisation I had been here for 16 years.

I had never thought of doing it before because I had never felt a need to have a passport to tell people that I was from Ireland.

But not being able to participate in national elections and referendums made me think I was missing out on being a part of an ever changing society. Perks such as ease of travel in the EU and not having to apply for a Schengen Visa to go on holidays are something I look forward to as well.

There is no citizenship test

For me the process of applying for naturalisation was a simple one. I was inundated with offers from people willing to sign off as a reference and people were always asking if there was any way they could help.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no citizenship test. However I feel I would have passed, a confidence I acquired from getting a C1 in higher level Irish and knowing the words to Amhrán na bhFiann.

The only difficult moment was parting with €950 at the end of the process but after cajoling from my much more sensible mother, this seemed like a small fee to finally live without having to present to a Garda station every three years to update your Stamp 4 visa. This is €300 each time by the way.

To receive my citizenship a few days before the referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment was a nice moment. No longer could someone say, “this is not your country, you can’t have an opinion”.

Nicholas is 22 and lives in Wicklow.

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