Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has honored a World Trade Center hero with the first Certificate of Irish Heritage.
The new Certificate of Irish Heritage will be available to members of the 70 million Diaspora provided they can prove an ancestral connection with Ireland. They cost around $60 and will be available in Irish, English and Spanish.
Minister Gilmore, on a week-long trip to America, made the presentation to the family of firefighter Joseph Gerard Hunter at Maspeth Fire Station in Queens on Monday night.
Hunter was last seen heading into the rubble at the World Trade Center in an effort to rescue victims of the 9/11 attacks.
His mother Bridget and her Irish cousins maintain a shrine to Joseph near their ancestral home in Connemara.
The certificate, the first issued by the Irish government under a new initiative, notes that Hunter is the descendant of two uncles from County Galway.
Minister Gilmore paid tribute to Hunter’s sacrifice and bravery when he presented the Certificate of Irish Heritage to Joseph’s mum Bridget at the Maspeth Fire Station.
The Minister noted that Joseph had wanted to be a firefighter from the age of four, set up a team of wannabe firemen at 11, volunteered for the fire service at 18 and graduated from the fire academy in 1996. He also paid tribute to the 19 members of Hunter’s 288 squadron from Maspeth who died on 9/11.
The concept was developed on the 2009 recommendation of Ireland’s Ambassador to Washington Michael Collins and is designed to deepen Irish-American relations.
“We should look at ways of encouraging and facilitating people, who are not entitled to citizenship, to give expression to their Irish ancestry,” said Ambassador Collins.
“One such measure could be a new certificate of Irish ancestry which, while having no legal standing as such, would constitute official recognition for many people of their familial and emotional connection with Ireland.”