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Mark McNulty takes Irish citzenship

By Brian Keogh (Irish Sun)

Globetrotter Mark McNulty pulled off one of the biggest wins of his career yesterday when he became an Irish citizen at the age of 50.

The Zimbabwe-born legend, who has won 51 times around the world in a 27 year career, has been forced to turn his back on his homeland because of the political situation.

Under dictator Robert Mugabe, it can take up to two years to get a passport renewed and McNulty cannot afford to take that chance as he prepares to play alongside fellow Irishmen Des Smyth and Eamonn Darcy on the US Champions Tour next season.

He said: "As a Zimbabwean, if you live outside the country it is very difficult to get your passport renewed. If I have my passport stolen or lost it can take me a year and a half to two years to get a new one.

"It's a big decision. But I'm looking at it from a roots aspect and also from a practical day to day travelling thing. Over 27 years I've been asked about my name and whether I have Irish blood, at least a couple of times a year.

"My mother had to renounce her Zimbabwe citizenship because she wasn't allowed to hold both a British and a Zimbabwean passport and it is the same for me."

Worried that his career could come to an end of he had his passport stolen, McNulty has taken out Irish citizenship as his maternal grandmother was born in Ballymena.

"The whole process started three or four years ago when my cousin's daughter came over to Ballymena. My grandmother's records were destroyed in a fire so we tried to get a christening record but couldn't find it.

"Eventually the ruling came on her death certificate which listed her place of birth as Ballymena, Ireland. She was born in 1885 and her name was Elizabeth Boyle Hanna."

McNulty was presented with his certificate of nationality by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowan at Iveagh House in Dublin and will be able to take out his passport immediately.

However, the African golfer confessed that it was "sad and painful" for him to give up his Zimbabwean passport after years of travelling the globe alongside the likes of Nick Price and Tony Johnstone.

The 23 year dictatorship of Robert Mugabe has made life almost impossible for Zimbabwe's white minority.

The last straw for McNulty came just 12 months ago when his parents and other family members were forced to abandon their 2,000 acre farm by government order.

Thousands of white farmers have been forced to return their lands to the black majority but with the economy in tatters because of economic sanctions, inflation is running at over 500 percent.

He explained: "Enough is enough. My parents have been kicked off the farm and seven families are involved between brothers and aunties and cousins. My parents are living in Harare now and my sister and brother are moving to Australia.

"The whole situation is sad. But you have to look at the whole picture. The black man in the street is suffering really badly. The biggest issue is the people on pensions. Two years ago there were worth something now their pensions are worth tuppence.

"I was in Zimbabwe a moth ago and took the family out to dinner one night. Two years ago the same meal cost 9,000 Zimbabwe dollars. A month ago that same meal cost 255,000."

McNulty will continue to live in the stockbroker belt of Sunningdale, where Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke are neighbours.

And he confirmed yesterday that he will be notifying the PGA Champions Tour that he is now an Irish player.

He added: "I'm sure they will still claim me in Zimbabwe, but Ireland will claim me too and I will be letting them know in the US that I am now an Irish passport holder.

"The most important thing is to be registered and I've done that now and I can get my passport.

"I've lived in Sunningdale for many many a year. I have family who are also going to be able to get Irish citizenship on the back of this.

"The situation is very sad and hopefully it will change in a few years if there is a change of government there, but this is the only way I can continue to do what I do and play around the world.

"My family were all kicked out and had to move off the property. My parents and brother and sister and my wife's family as well. We had a 2,000 acre property and around 240 labourers producing good maize for the country which was dependent on agriculture.

"Out of around 4,500 farms there are less than 1000 white farmers left. My brother is now working in Harare. My sister and her husband are moving to Australia in January and that basically says it all."

A long time pal of Drogheda's Des Smyth, McNulty admitted that his Irish friend played a vital role in encouraging him to go for his Champions Tour card recently.

In the end, McNulty matched Smyth's feat of last year and won the final qualifying School.

He said: "Des was very instrumental in kicking me up the backside to go and get my card on the US Seniors tour.

"I couldn't believe how difficult it was over there but I was playing well so it was actually easy in the end."

McNulty is no stranger to hardship.

His natural father was killed in a shooting accident when he was one year old and in 1980 he escaped with facial injuries when his car collided with a bus near his parents' farm.

He said: "Yes, I had a bad accident in 1980 on the farm and you really take a step back and ask yourself what's life all about. I had serious facial and neck injuries and I suffer with my neck from time to time."

While his playing career is coming to an end, McNulty has decided to cash in on the Champions Tour in the US.

He joked: "I think I'm past the age. for representing Ireland in the World Cup or something like that. But I won't be taking up my Zimbabwean passport again I don't think.

"I have to be realistic. You are only a young 50 year old once and you have got to take advantage of it. There is a window of opportunity there for me in the States and I am looking forward to it."

Minister Cowan said: "It's a great pleasure to present you with this Certificate of Registration and we are very grateful that you are recognising your Irish roots."

McNulty thrilled Irish fans earlier this year when he finished joint second in the Smurfit European Open at the K Club.

He does not know if he will play here next year and raise a trophy on Irish soil.

"I'll have to look at the schedule but I'll certainly raise a Guinness tonight."


© Brian Keogh 2003