Records released under the Freedom of Information Act show Mr Kenny wrote to Mr Martin on February 17th, 2022, suggesting that he “arrange a call” with a representative of the unnamed person, who the former Fine Gael leader said had made a “very substantial investment in education”.
Mr Kenny, who served as taoiseach from 2011 to 2017, said the person taking the call would provide more information on the philanthropist’s involvement in Ireland and what their investment “means for the Irish economy”.
The name of the person for whom honorary citizenship was being sought was redacted in the records, as was Mr Martin’s response to Mr Kenny.
An award of honorary citizenship is extremely rare, with fewer than a dozen previous recipients, including former Irish football manager Jack Charlton and his wife, Pat; philanthropist Alfred Chester Beatty; American politician Tip O’Neill; former United States ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith; and Tiede Herrema, a Dutch businessman who was kidnapped by the IRA in 1975.
In response to queries, the Department of the Taoiseach said the person referred to in Mr Kenny’s letter had not received honorary citizenship. It said the response provided informed Mr Kenny that any requests for honorary citizenship should be dealt with through the embassy and consular office where the person in question resides.
A spokesperson for Mr Kenny said the letter to Mr Martin was prompted by a letter he received from an Irish person inquiring as to whether the State would grant honorary citizenship to someone who has “provided exceptional support for Irish American cultural events”.
“Mr Kenny forwarded the letter concerned to the Taoiseach’s office. He provided a covering letter stressing that the request was in respect of honorary recognition only,” they said.
“The Taoiseach’s office replied to the Irish citizen who wrote the letter to Mr Kenny, indicating the regulations that govern any award of Irish citizenship, and informed them that any such request is initiated through the embassy and consular office network in the country in which the individual concerned resides.”
The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 provides that the President, on the advice of the Government, may grant Irish citizenship as a token of honour to a person or to the child or grandchild of a person who has rendered distinguished service to the State.
“This is done on the basis that our Constitution does not permit titles of honour or nobility to be conferred on any person by the State. Any Government Minister can bring a proposal to Government on the awarding of honorary citizenship for Government decision,” the Department of the Taoiseach said.
The records show Mr Kenny has been in regular contact with the Taoiseach’s office on behalf of private equity company VentureWave Capital.
Mr Kenny is the chair of the company’s Impact Ireland Global Advisory Council and has invited the Taoiseach of the day to a number of speaking arrangements on behalf of the company over the last two years.
Following invitations from Mr Kenny, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and former president Mary McAleese will be honorary guests at a dinner organised by the company at the Shelbourne Hotel on Thursday at which former US senator George Mitchell is to be given an award for his work on the Northern Ireland peace process.