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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 26, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

    The Certificate of Irish Heritage

    John Grenham

    When the Certificate of Irish Heritage was first proposed back in 2009, the response from the standing army of Irish genealogists was sceptical, to put it mildly. Some of the gentler contributions from the sideline included the words “Leprechaun” and “Begorrah”. In the Irish Independent, Martina Devlin got very annoyed indeed, calling the whole scheme “tawdry, tricksy and really kind of icky … a demeaning device to hoodwink the descendants of emigrants.” Even the practical obstacles seemed huge. How exactly would “Irish Heritage” be measured? Would anyone who ever did an Irish dancing class qualify? The begrudgers were unanimous. It could be little more than a state-sponsored “Kiss me I’m Irish” hat.

    The scheme has now been in operation for five months and it is time for some of us cynics to eat a few words. Fexco, the Kerry company chosen to run the programme, looked at the image problems and the practical problems as openly as possible, and tackled them head-on. The result, visible at heritagecertificate.ie, is utterly genuine. The Certificate is simply an acknowledgment by the Government of an individual’s historic link with Ireland, based on demonstrable evidence and with text consisting mainly of a quote from Article 2 of the Constitution: “The Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with those of Irish ancestry living abroad”.

    Anyone who has researched the ancestors of Irish emigrants knows that it can be nearly impossible to make a documentary link to the precise Irish place of origin, especially for those who flooded off the island during the Famine and its aftermath. That doesn’t make them any less Irish, or their descendants’ connection with Ireland any less real. At the very least, contemporary Ireland owes them recognition of that connection. The Certificate provides just that, straightforwardly and honestly. With not a shamrock or a shillelagh in sight.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      What about those of us of Irish ancestry NOT living abroad? Do we count? Feckin should get one for free considering how much tax I’ve paid since this hulk started sinking.
      Or even considering how much time I spent on here screaming ”ICEBERG AHEAD!” since March 2003.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      It’s kinda saying, in an indirect way, ”My Ancestors Had The Wit To Get The Hell Out While The Gittin Was Feckin Good.”

      I’ll have ten.

    • As stated before, only the Irish could think up a money making scheme like a Certificate of Irish Heritage.
      Now if it was free, now that would be something else, However, I believe that if the overseas Irish had been asked which would rather have for the 60+ Euros.
      Free access to Ireland’s Parish Records.??
      Or have free access to Ireland’s Civil Records of births, marriage and death’s??
      I for one, do not a piece of paper, to remind me of my IRISH HERITAGE. But I do need free access to what was promised many years ago by the then Celtic Irish Government.
      But jobs for the boys must come first..
      So get your finger out, and make your promise’s good.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      ” As stated before, only the Irish could think up a money making scheme like a Certificate of Irish Heritage” – @ 3 our German friends would beg to differ with their abstammungsurkunde perhaps…but enough of that.
      Anyway, it’s a pretty thing, I’ve had a look, and you can get it in a choice of three designs either: with a painting of an emigrant ship; a plain (one might suggest more ”official” looking Celtic knot; or with a painting of the West of Ireland. V. tasteful and will doubtless grace the walls of many’s an AOH lodge and cosy Middle American homestead and why wouldn’t it? Money-making schemes are not necessarily either immoral nor illegal. Depends on whether anyone’s being cheated and whether the money is going to and/or coming from a virtuous end. Might still get one. Of course it won’t get any warmer a welcome at the immigration desks of sundry post-colonial (or even neo-colonial or pre-colonial) societies for those of us whom hold US or UK passports and are thus known to be citizens of bloody Imperiums past and present that have e’er waved their butcher’s flags over corners of foreign fields that are forever Barings Bank or Halliburton. Our US and UK passports tell too honest a tale for that.
      ‘Neutral’ Irish citizens of course can still expect that warmer welcome (given most such post- pre- and colonial societies still labour under the delusion that Ireland is a Nation that aspires to the peaceful settlement of disputes; the observance of international law; that rejects ”the values of warring nations” and so on and so forth mar dhea and never mind Shannon Whoreport nor the 21st century aviatory Auschwitiz Express so profitably operating there since 03/03) but THEIR certificates of Irish heritage – as issued by the Passport Office – are rather more functional than the ones under discussion and can still be almost guaranteed to pull the wool over the eyes of said post- pre- and currently- colonised (and with no small degree of cowardice inhumanity and rapine in both past and present cases) nations everywhere.
      Anyway. Might get one. 40 euro its a steal to cover the damp patch in my wall over the fishtank that currently has ancient Punch cartoons of Michael Collins and John Bull concealing it. And cheaper yet than an Irish passport (price range varies from 80 quid to a million depending on whether you’re willing to queue down Molesworth Street with the rest of the hoi-polloi or want it hand-delivered at Kinsealy yus indade there’ve been other money making schemes involving ”certificates of Irish heritage” that did in fact result in quite a lot of us being cheated and indeed the money ”earned” by them going to less than virtuous ends so don’t be giving out too much about this one.

    • Maureen says:

      I don’t need a Certificate as I was born and reared in Ireland and have an Irish passport. My GRIPE is that once you get off the mainland, you are told to put the lights out and don’t you DARE ask to have a say in the election of a President, a referendum or anything that you can have to say about the Constitution..!!!! We are the ONLY COUNTRY in the civilised western world who are denied all rights!!…Local elections we don’t need to vote(as we only know a few) and even the General elections, we will take our beatings, but why are we Irish born and bred/educatd, etc., deprived of our RIGHTS…. Some will say we don’t pay taxes, but if we are given the right to vote, then most iof us outside the mainland would have no problem…

      Certificates..Indeed…… BTW, John O’D above…You sound really bitter about things… Chin up lad, as it’s not so bad….LOL..At least the Black and Amber are showing their eternal rivals the colour of their teeth!!…


    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Bitter Maureen. I suppose so. Tragedy and farce innnit? So I suppose it’s bitter-sweet too. Like chocolate. It repeats.

      If it makes you feel any better I have to live here and pay obscene amounts of the bread I make in the sweat of my face into The National Sucking Chest Wound and I can’t vote for Ireland’s President nor in referenda nor does the Constitution cherish me being a person of Irish descent even. Which at least it does when you’re abroad so hey yer quids in look on the bright side. Dee doo. Dee doo deedoodeedoo.

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Americans can vote in US elections wherever they are because they pay US tax wherever they are or at least they’re liable for it on worldwide income subject to double tax treaty relief &c. It’s right thusly that they should have a say in where their tax dollars, theoretical or actual, are squan put to work. As regards expats of countries that do not levy taxation on world wide income, the argument for overseas voting is less clear. Even in the case of a President or matters affecting the Constitution. When you move house, is it still your right to dictate what the occupants of your old gaff do with the curtains or the patio or even their mortgage? Perhaps not the best analogy. One can be said to retain a legitimate interest in the progress of one’s Nation even if one is not actually living in the State the Nation claims its own. The Jewish diaspora could testify to that as could the overseas Chinese. Neither of whom either can vote in their respective home countries. Not that it stops them affecting policies and all manner of matters of State. Power and influence is wielded with a great deal more immediacy and visibility (or invisibility) than an individual vote when that power and influence can be wielded for or against the political entities within the country concerned. Israel and China aren’t the only countries to have massively powerful wealthy networks outside their territorial boundaries. India’s another. So is the Vatican. Moreover some of those networks I’ve mentioned can and do realistically plan 200 years into the future and take actions accordingly. So why should Ireland be any different? This country will need to double its population (and has in times past adequately provided for those numbers until Trevalyan stole the corn &c.) if there’s a serious intention of rebuilding the economy to a sufficient capital base to service the interest on the 180 billion odd debt, absent it being inflated away or something. Perhaps time to offer Irish passports as well as other, less functional, certificates of Irish heritage to anyone can prove Irish descent? If they’d be mad enough to come here perhaps they’d be mad enough to stay and work the pumps. If they weren’t mad enough for that perhaps they could be persuaded to use their connections experience values history talents intelligence decency whatever in some way towards Ireland’s benefit?

    • John O'Driscoll says:

      Of course it’s a good long while since David McWilliams first mooted the idea of offering Irish passports to anyone could prove Irish descent but hey the lights are still on the band’s still playing Autumn case ye hadn’t noticed though First Class have rowed away in the lifeboats and we’re a good deal lower in the water. Still not beyond the bounds that H em MV Ireland will enter harbour no?

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