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28 February 2012

IRELAND'S "SPECIAL AFFINITY"

      Shortly after Mary Robinson was elected President of Ireland in 1990, she placed a candle in the window of Aras an Uachtarain (the official residence of the President) in remembrance of all the Irish who had left their homeland. I was deeply touched by her reaching out to the Irish diaspora.  Ireland has continued to reach out to those of us who share Irish ancestry. Did you know that the Irish Constitution is unique in that it recognizes an affinity with the descendants of its emigrants? Article 2 states that "the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage." Recently, the Irish government decided to give official recognition of these ties to descendants of Irish immigrants by issuing a Certificate of Irish Heritage.
          I also write a monthly post for the Certificate's website. (LINK TO MY CERTIFICATE BLOG).  It's my way of saying "thank you" to the Irish government for honoring my ancestors and welcoming them home in spirit. When I give my genealogy presentations, I have been asked many questions about the certificate. Today, I'd like to share an interview with Gavin O'Sullivan, who is the Customer Service Team Leader for the Certificate of Irish Heritage (Fexco is the company that administers the Certificate for the Irish government). Gavin was kind enough to take time out of his very busy schedule to answer some of the questions I have been asked about the Certificate.

Who issues the Certificate of Irish Heritage? Is it an official document of the government of Ireland? GAVIN: The Certificate is issued by ‘The Certificate of Irish Heritage’ on behalf of the Irish Government (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade). It is an official Irish Government Document containing the golden harp, the national symbol of Ireland, and each Certificate is signed by Eamonn Gilmore TD, Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade.
My Certificate (excuse the reflections)
What is the purpose of the Certificate? GAVIN: The purpose of the Certificate is to give official recognition by the state to individuals of Irish heritage all over the world. Article 2 of our Constitution states “the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.” The certificate goes a step further by recognising each individual recipient.


Who can apply for the Certificate? GAVIN: The Certificate is open to anyone of Irish descent born outside the Island of Ireland.
Does an applicant have to know a county or a town of origin for their ancestor to qualify for a certificate? GAVIN: Applicants do not need to know the town or county that their ancestor came from. All they need demonstrate is that their ancestor was Irish or was born on the island of Ireland. If they know the county where their ancestor came from and the year they were born this information can also be provided to us and it will  appear on the Certificate, but it is not a requirement.

Is there any help or assistance with genealogical research provided to potential applicants? GAVIN: Yes, we have a small and dedicated customer service team who are here to assist all applicants with their application. If applicants are having trouble locating a document that demonstrates their ancestor was Irish, our team will complete a search on their behalf and provide them with this document in order to complete their application. If you require assistance please email customer@heritagecertificate.ie.


The beautiful framing job by
the Certificate framing dept.
Anything else you would like to emphasize ? GAVIN: Many applicants believe that they must produce an document from Ireland that demonstrates that their ancestor was Irish. This is not the case. We accept official documents from all countries not just Ireland. Census documents and death certificates from the country where their ancestor settled are usually much easier to locate, depending on when their ancestor left Ireland. Many of our applicants have purchased Certificates for their family members and friends, as a result of this we are now offering substantial discounts when applicants order more than one Certificate. We are planning a promotion in March so keep an eye on our website www.heritagecertificate.ie and Facebook Page www.facebook.com/heritagecertificate
Thank you, Gavin!