Chief of the NYC Fire Department Edward S. Kilduff, Bridget Hunter and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore display the Certificate of Irish Heritage at a recent ceremony.
On a visit to New York last week to speak at the 66th United Nations General Assembly, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore T.D., used the opportunity to present the first Certificate of Irish Heritage to the family of Joseph (Joe) Hunter, a New York fireman who lost his life in the 9/11 attacks.
The Certificate of Irish Heritage aims to recognise those of Irish lineage in an official way, giving greater expression to the sense of Irish identity felt by many around the world who might not otherwise be able to do so.
Joe Hunter was born in New York in 1970, the son of Bridget [who hails from Co. Galway] and Joseph Hunter. At 18 he joined the South Hempstead Fire Department as a volunteer, and in 1996 he was accepted into the New York Fire Department (FDNY) as a member of Squad 288 in Maspeth, Queens.
The ceremony at the firehouse of Squad 288 was attended by the Hunter family, former colleagues of Joe’s, and FDNY chief Edward S. Kilduff. Presenting the certificate to Joe’s mother Bridget, the Tánaiste spoke of the longstanding bonds between Irish emigrants and the emergency responders.
“Generations of Irish have been proud and privileged to serve with New York’s finest - in the Fire Department, the NYPD, and other emergency services,” he said. “We in Ireland felt the pain and loss of all Americans in the obscenity of 9/11 but we felt a particular pain in our hearts for those brave men and women of Irish heritage who lost their lives on that day.”
After receiving the award, Mrs. Hunter said it would have been an extremely proud day for her son.
“Joseph was very proud of his Irish roots and in continuing the brave and selfless tradition of service given by the Irish to the FDNY,” she said. “He would have been very honoured to receive the first Certificate.”
The Tánaiste confirmed that applications for the new Certificate of Heritage can be submitted online from the end of this month at certificateheritage.ie. Applications are open to persons who were not born on the island of Ireland and who can provide appropriate supporting documentation connecting them to an individual Irish ancestor.