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Saturday 3 December 2016

Rugby coach Joe Schmidt answers Ireland's call and becomes a citizen

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald with Joe Schmidt during the citizenship ceremony in Dublin
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald with Joe Schmidt during the citizenship ceremony in Dublin
Richardt Strauss with his wife Megan at the ceremony

Joe Schmidt has answered Ireland's Call many times before - and the Irish rugby coach has now been rewarded with Irish citizenship.

A special ceremony organised by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald took place in Dublin ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

The small event saw head coach Schmidt, as well referee Olly Hodges and Leinster forward Richardt Strauss, have their 'naturalisation' process made official.

The men could apply for the citizenship having lived here for more than five years.

The Ireland coach, whose team take on England in their final warm-up match this weekend, said the process has made him feel more Irish.

"I do [feel more Irish], I think it brings me a little bit closer and that connection, I feel a little bit Irish anyway and in our family now there is a bit of Irishness about it," Schmidt said.

Bryan McMahon, a retired Judge of the High Court, administered the Declaration of Fidelity to the Irish Nation and Loyalty to the State to the three men.

"The days when I get to welcome new citizens to the family that is Ireland are among the happiest, the best among all of the joys of the job," he said.

"To look out at big numbers of people who have come from so many countries, and who have made the decision to be Irish, it's just fantastic."

Welcoming the new citizens, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the ceremony was "a bit different" to the normal larger events, and added that the men could now feel "proud to be Irish".

Welcoming

"We're welcoming new citizens today who have already contributed to Ireland's sense of itself," the Minister said.

"People in rugby tell me that Joe does an untold amount of work behind the scenes to support grass roots rugby. He's not on his own.

"Joe, Oliver and Richardt have, time and again, lifted the mood of the nation.

"Today, you go a step further. It indicates commitment to the wider team that is new Ireland. From today, you, too, will be proud to be Irish."

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