The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Martin has told the Government that he hopes to have the plan for a ‘Certificate of Irish Heritage’ ready to launch in January 2011.
Irish Americans who are not eligible for Irish citizenship, those whose ancestry is further back than their grandparents are all eligible.
Several discount programs on travel to Ireland will likely be included as part of the heritage certificate.
He said “It will enable people who have a strong Irish connection to assert their Irishness and their heritage. For many people beyond the grandparents stage there is no manifestation of the fact they are Irish.”
Martin was also keen to point out that there would be no cost to the taxpayers. He said “It will be self-financing. There will be a charge for the certificate but it's not to make money. It's not a revenue generating mechanism at all.”
Currently the Department of Foreign Affairs is finalizing a contract with a Kerry-based company, Fexco, who will operate the scheme.
The idea for this ‘Certificate of Irishness’ arose from a review of relations between Ireland and the U.S. carried out by Michael Collins, the Irish Ambassador to the U.S. The scheme will target millions of people worldwide who have Irish ancestry and a strong affinity with Ireland.
It’s believed there are up to 80 million in total. Although many of these people are no longer eligible for Irish citizenship due to the passage of generations they will be eligible for the certificate.
The idea for such a scheme arose because of the strong demand amongst the Irish diaspora around the world.