Heritage certificates at €40 fail to woo reluctant Irish diaspora
EVERYBODY WANTS to be Irish, right? Wrong. At least not going by the number of people around the world who have signed up for a certificate proving their Irish lineage.
Only 1,042 Irish Heritage Certificates were issued in the first 13 months of the scheme which targets Ireland’s 60 million-strong diaspora.
The Government has now agreed to extend the contract, for a second year, despite the low uptake. The rules for providing documentary evidence of “Irishness” have also been relaxed.
The idea of issuing certificates arose from the Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh in 2009. Under the scheme the descendants of Irish citizens who do not themselves qualify for Irish citizenship can be issued with a certificate at a cost of €40.
The scheme, which was launched in September 2011 in New York, is run on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs by the Kerry-based company Fexco.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that, at a meeting held in January, members of the Irish Abroad Unit from the department expressed disappointment at the initial figures. But they said it was important to look at the scheme in the context of other schemes “which do take some time to spike, sometimes even a number of years”.
At the same meeting Fexco raised “some frustration” with delays in other Government agencies “in embracing the certificate campaign”.
At a later meeting in May 2012 department officials shared a draft proposal to relax the requirements to provide documentary evidence of their Irish ancestry on a trial basis. Applicants who do not have documentary evidence can now give narrative information on their ancestors instead of providing documentation.
Although the certificate scheme is funded solely by the €40 fee paid by applicants, the department has spent €2,714 on the scheme to date.
The costs relate to technical issues relating to websites which the department owns, travel costs associated with department officials travelling to Fexco’s offices in Killorglin, Co Kerry, and photographs taken at the New York launch last September.
Of the 1,042 certificates issued to date, 57 per cent have been issued to people living in the US, 13 per cent to those living in Australia, while 9 per cent relate to those in Canada.