Health Minister Leo Varadkar and former Justice Mnister Alan Shatter will hold a meeting in Blanchardstown on 7 January
By Chinedu Onyejelem
Top Fine Gael stalwarts are to host members of Ireland’s new communities in Ireland with the aim of encouraging them to join the party, it has emerged.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter will meet with the existing and prospective members from the immigrant communities in Blanchardstown on Tuesday 7 January.
Metro Éireann has learned that the purpose of this meeting is to explain the party’s current immigration and integration policies, and seek views on drawing up new policies and programmes which will form a new Programme of Government should the party be re-elected into power in 2016.
In a statement, Fine Gael told Metro Éireann that it wanted to be more inclusive.
“Inclusion of all groups is a high priority for the party, as it affords us the opportunity to connect with every part of Irish society, ensuring that Fine Gael best represents the interests of all citizens,” said a spokesperson.
The meeting is the second in a series planned by the party before the general elections, after Shatter addressed a group in Dublin a few weeks ago.
It’s believed the former Justice Minister is held in high regard by immigrants because he introduced major changes to the citizenship application process.
“On taking up office in March 2011, I immediately initiated steps within the department to deal with the huge backlog of citizenship applications that had built up under previous Governments,” said the former minister upon the first of those changes.
“It was entirely inappropriate that people wishing to become Irish citizens should be expected to wait an average of 25 months for a decision on their application,” he added. “Under the new system, save in exceptional circumstances, persons applying for citizenship will be given a decision on their application within six months.”
Shatter said the importance he attached to Irish citizenship was the reason behind the citizenship ceremonies that he introduced, the latest of which were held in Dublin on 14 December.
Before then, a local district court clerk arranged for a person granted citizenship to take an oath before a District Court Judge, and a certificate of naturalisation was sent to the new citizen subsequently by post.
“There was no sense of occasion or recognition of what a major and important event it is to become an Irish citizen,” said Shatter.
Over 60,000 immigrants have participated in citizenship ceremonies in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Templemore and Tipperary since the first event at Dublin Castle in June 2011.