The Irish Government’s decision to allow up to 70 million members of the Irish diaspora worldwide to apply for, and receive, certificates of Irish heritage is a move that should be welcomed by everyone involved.
It’s a gesture towards a sort of inclusiveness that’s been badly lacking where the Irish diaspora is concerned.
The ‘Irish Irish’, i.e. current citizens of Ireland, have an unfortunate history of being somewhat snobby towards their overseas brethren, and this measure is at least a starting step towards rectifying that fragmented relationship.
The Irish abroad have been unjustly depicted as phoney, pretentious and out-of-touch by large groups of the indigenous Irish population in the past. None of these charges have much, if any, support in reality, and it’s good and heartening to see that we’re finally acknowledging these people for what they are: as proud members of our global clan.
What’s unfortunate is the reason for the issuing of the Certificates.
Studying the details of the Certificate scheme, it’s pretty clear that economics played a rather large part in the decision to go ahead with the idea.
Although nothing concrete seems to have been ironed out yet, one feature of the certificates seems to be that they’ll make their holders eligible for a variety of discounts including reduced airfares to Ireland.
It’s hard to see Ireland’s economic collapse and ebbing tourist trade as a happy co-incidence in all this.
Call me cynical, but part of me thinks that one of the main reasons, perhaps even the main reason, for issuing the Certificates was to provide a boost to our economy and tourist trade.
If that’s the case, it’s a great pity that money and not a genuine desire to reach out and acknowledge the Diaspora was the motivating factor for the decision. It would have said a lot more had the scheme been announced at the height of the Celtic Tiger, when we didn’t need the extra tourism.
In any event, though, that’s not the point to be dwelled on. We should all be happy that the idea’s gone ahead.
Irish, Irish-American or even Irish-Jamaican, let’s unite in congratulating the government for taking on this worthwhile endeavour, listening to those who criticized the longstanding disconnect between the native Irish and the diaspora, and decided to embark on this scheme and open a new, and hopefully improved, chapter in Irish-Diaspora relations.