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Thursday 8 December 2016

Lack of interest is blamed as certificate of Irishness scrapped

Published 18/08/2015 | 02:30

Then-Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore presents Tom Cruise with his Certificate of Irish Heritage in 2013
Then-Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore presents Tom Cruise with his Certificate of Irish Heritage in 2013

A much-heralded scheme where people could buy a so-called certificate of Irishness celebrating their ancestry has been axed by the Government.

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The Department of Foreign Affairs, which ran the scheme, said it was being discontinued due to a lack of interest.

Descendants of previous generations of Irish citizens at home and abroad could previously apply for and buy the certificates online.

Many well-known celeb- rities and political figures were among 298 people presented with the certificates in order to highlight their Irishness.

However, despite the big names honoured under the scheme, only 2,925 of the certificates were sold.

US President Barack Obama was presented with one in recognition of his roots in Moneygall, Co Offaly.

Former president Bill Clinton, author Dennis Lehane and former athlete Seb Coe also received certificates.

Actor Tom Cruise discovered through the scheme that he has roots here, fittingly, in Hollywood, Co Wicklow.

"You couldn't make this stuff up - I found out my ancestors owned a town called Hollywood. It's wild," he said at the time.

"As a gift, they went and researched my family. It was an amazing story.

"They gave me a cert saying this, and traced my family back to the ninth century. I had no idea it went back that far."

Unframed certificates cost €45 while framed versions cost €120.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the certificates would no longer be available after August 24.

"Uptake of the Certificate of Irish Heritage has been considerably less than anticipated," she said.

Identity

"The Certificate of Irish Heritage was introduced in 2011 to recognise descendants of previous generations of Irish citizens in an official way and to give greater practical expression to the sense of Irish identity felt by many around the world."

The department also claimed that the scheme was not introduced as a source of extra income for the Government, and certificates may still be presented to dignitaries and famous figures in the future.

Fianna Fail foreign affairs spokesperson Brendan Smith said that more could have been done with the initiative.

"This was a good idea with a lot of potential, but it needed some imagination and more promotion. Unfortunately, under this Government it got neither.

"This concept was proposed to create a physical documentation of the Irish heritage of the hundreds of thousands of people in the world who have an important connection to Ireland. It's an opportunity lost."

Irish Independent

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