By Fionnan Sheahan
Monday December 27 2010
FOR generations of Irish ex-pats, the song 'If You're Irish, Come Into The Parlour' promised a hearty "welcome on the mat".
Soon the diaspora will be able to apply for an official certificate to drop onto their doormat as well, recognising their Irishness.
The Government will launch a plan early next year to provide a 'Certificate of Irish Heritage' to the Irish across the world.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is currently finalising a contract with the Kerry-based financial services company, FeXco, to operate the scheme.
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin said the Government hoped to have the plan ready to roll in January.
"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," he said.
Mr Martin said there would be no cost to the taxpayer from the initiative.
"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."
The idea came from a review of relations between Ireland and the US, carried out by the Irish Ambassador to the US Michael Collins.
The minister said the certificate was targeted at the millions of people worldwide who were aware of their Irish ancestry and felt a strong affinity for Ireland.
But the vast majority are no longer eligible for Irish citizenship due to the passage of generations.
The certificate will have no legal standing, but still aims to recognise descendants of generations of Irish in an official way.
Up to 40 million US citizens describe themselves as Irish-American.
The scheme will target the Irish community in the US, Britain, Australia, and will be available worldwide.
The certificate concept came from a strong demand for such a scheme among members of the Irish diaspora.
When the proposal was included in the Strategic Review of Ireland-US relations, it was warmly received by the Irish-American community.
- Fionnan Sheahan