Diaspora certifies Irish heritage from Albania to Samoa

It might not entitle you anything, but new figures show 2,200 people have secured a Certificate of Irishness — including people resident in Bhutan and American Samoa.

Not surprisingly, most of the applications for the certificate, first introduced in 2011, have come from Americans. They top the list of applicants for the certificate, which costs €40 unframed and up to €120 framed, with €5 postage to anywhere in the world.

The country with the next highest level of applications is Australia, while residents in Ireland, more surprisingly, lodged the third highest number of applications.

Canada and Britain complete the top five, but further down the list there are some more exotic nations.

For example, certificates have been posted to the Himalayan state of Bhutan, eastern European outpost Albania, and the Pacific islands of American Samoa.

Certificates have also been sold to Hibernophiles in Oman, Algeria, New Zealand, Uruguay, and Japan, among others.

The scheme is operated by Fexco, an external company based in Killorglin in Co Kerry, on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and does not entitle the owner to any legal claim on citizenship.

Initially, anyone seeking to prove their claim to Irish ancestry had to provide documents, such as a birth certificate, church records of death, marriage and baptism, land records, or wills.

However, Kay Woods, who works on the issuing of the certificates, said the process had been simplified: “We have made it as easy as possible to get one now.”

Applicants must still outline the extent of their Irish heritage and satisfactorily answer at least two of five questions posted on the website. So far, no one has been denied a certificate or found to have posted false information, she said.

With an estimated 70m people globally making some claim to Irishness, many more certificates could be sold, and Ms Woods said The Gathering and associated events had resulted in a growing number of applications.

“The Gathering certainly has had an impact, with many families organising family gatherings and presenting ‘Head of that Family’ [certificates],” she said.

Past recipients of a certificate include US president Barack Obama and his compatriot, actor Tom Cruise.

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