Sunday 22 January 2017

The diaspora is a rich resource, not just a cash cow

Published 21/08/2015 | 02:30

Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan
Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan

This week, the Government abandoned its Certificate of Irish Heritage after it turned out that fewer than 3,000 people had taken it up. The certificate was given to foreigners who did not fully qualify for Irish citizenship and an Irish passport. The State had tightened the rules on Irish passports and so this was seen as a consolation prize.

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But there was little interest, and one can see why. For €40, the applicants got just a sheet (admittedly, of posh vellum) with their name on it and a fancy design. The applicant's lineage was loosely described: too loosely, according to genealogists, and this was part of the problem. But the whole scheme got little or no promotion and there was nothing behind it, such as membership of a group or a suggested way of activating an interest in the applicant's heritage and kinship with others of an Irish background. It just seemed like a cheap wheeze to drum up money.

Yet the scheme could have had great potential. The certificates were presented to Hollywood actor Tom Cruise and US president Barack Obama, who seemed delighted to receive this unusual honour - a connection and photo opportunity that other small countries could only dream of. But the scheme was allowed to lapse and eventually die. On 'Morning Ireland', Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan gave a rather poor explanation as to why it was being abandoned, or even why it had been launched.

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