Certificate of Irish Heritage abandoned after low uptake

Just 2,925 people splashed cash for paper proving Irish roots

Former minister for foreign affairs Eamon Gilmore presented a Certificate of Irish Heritage to Tom Cruise, whose Irish ancestry stretches back to the 12th century when the Cruise family settled in Ireland as Knights of Strongbow

Former minister for foreign affairs Eamon Gilmore presented a Certificate of Irish Heritage to Tom Cruise, whose Irish ancestry stretches back to the 12th century when the Cruise family settled in Ireland as Knights of Strongbow

 

Members of the diaspora will no longer be able to pay for proof of their connection to Ireland after the Government announced it is to stop selling Certificates of Irish Heritage.

The scheme, which emerged from an idea mooted at the Global Irish Forum at Farmleigh in 2009, grants certificates to descendants of Irish citizens who don’t qualify for Irish citizenship themselves, but are willing to stump up €40 for a piece of paper to prove their Irish roots, or €120 with a frame.

Announcing the end of the scheme on Monday, a statement issued by the department said uptake had been “considerably less than anticipated”.

Just 2,925 certificates have been purchased since the scheme began in September 2011, figures released to The Irish Times last week showed, with just 179 issued so far this year.

In addition to those sold to individuals, 298 certificates have also been presented by the Irish Government to well-known celebrities and world figures with Irish connections, including actor Tom Cruise, US president Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton, and former Olympic athlete Sebastian Coe.

Although the certificates will no longer be for sale after the end of this week, the Government will continue to present them to high-profile members of the Irish diaspora.

Genealogist Paul Gorry, who has been helping people trace their Irish ancestry for more than three decades, said the initiative was “doomed from the start”.

“[The Government] didn’t want to make it too difficult for people to apply, so the whole thing was dumbed down,” he said.

“Applicants only had to provide a document proving the person they said was their ancestor was Irish, without any evidence of a link between them, so the certificate was valueless. The people who would actually value something like this would be those who have spent a lot of time and effort tracing their ancestors, and have proof of all the links.”

The department said today that the certificate had been “a practical expression of the importance the Government attaches to recognising people of Irish descent and encouraging people to trace their roots”, and it “was never anticipated that the Certificate of Irish Heritage would provide significant revenue to the Government”.

Briefing documents prepared for Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan last year showed that the scheme has funded itself due to the price charged for each certificate, but the Department of Foreign Affairs had spent approximately €3,000 up to May 2014 on websites and the cost of attending meetings with Fexco, the Kerry-based company which operates the scheme on behalf of the department.

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