The certificate of Irish heritage scheme has turned out a bust.
Only 2,500 have been taken up in four years according to the latest figures from the Irish government, which had high hopes at the launch of several hundred thousand being taken up by the Diaspora.
President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama were among those presented with the vellum parchment acknowledging their Irish roots. The idea originally arose around the second Irish Irish global diaspora summit in Dublin in 2011.
Other major names included actor Tom Cruise and Princess Charlene of Monaco.
A major drive was undertaken after the launch in September 2011 to make the certificate a valuable part of the Diaspora experience.
The certificates were for Irish abroad not entitled to Irish passports who would have an official certificate of heritage signed off on by the Irish government. With over 70 million in the global Diaspora hopes were high for huge sales.
The creation and selling of the certificates was mainly handled by the FEXCO company in Killarney who successfully bid for the franchise. It is one of Ireland’s most successful companies with 1,800 employees specializing in overseas tax reimbursement. Key FEXCO personnel believed the potential was in the hundreds of thousands sales every year.
However, FEXCO and Irish government personnel often differed about what exact qualifications and extent of genealogical history were needed to receive a certificate.
Right from the beginning there were problems with critics saying the application process was too difficult and many Irish Americans saying the information needed to gain one of the certificates, about ancient family roots was too difficult to access.
FEXCO rethought the whole process about two years into the planned program and began to refocus on gifting the certificate.Latterly gift certificates for $45 were being pushed but even they have not received much traction.
The first certificate of Irish heritage was awarded posthumously at a ceremony in New York to an Irish American firefighter who died on 9/11.
Then Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore presented the certificate to Bridget Hunter mother of 9/11 victim Joe Hunter, a firefighter.
The framed certificate contains a quote from the Irish constitution which states: “The Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.”
Many of the certificates feature a 153 painting by Edward Hayes of ‘An Emigrant Ship, Dublin Bay.’
It is not known what the future of the certificates will be.
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