Tom Cruise foisted “Far and Away” on us and we got him back by foisting a “Certificate of Irishness” on him, and if you ever visit at his ranch in Murrieta, California, he’ll have to take it out of storage and hang it on the wall. And he can’t sell it because it’s unique to him with his name printed on it. Mind you, it seems these Certificates might become collector items, because, since the launch of the Certificates in August 2011 – yes, this was a Fine Gael/Labour initiative – it was confirmed this week that just 1,794 have been issued.
There is a dedicated website which promotes the Certificates and a quick review of it shows about a dozen framed certificates being forced on people with a link to Ireland. From President Barack Obama to Tom Cruise, we’ve displayed a staggering lack of tact by foisting certificates on the slow and unwary.
Perhaps in future, we could use these Certificates as diplomatic weapons to embarrass people – maybe doorstep Piers Morgan (born in Banagher, county Offaly) who nurtures a Hugh-Grant image of Britishness in the US; where would Piers be, if he was uncovered as an ordinary Mick. And what about Tory toff, the British chancellor George “Ireland is a friend in need” Osborne whose folks originally hailed from Tipperary and Waterford. Maybe pay him back for claiming the €4bn bilateral loan was just digging us out of a hole, when in fact it is being used to repay British bondholders in Irish banks. What would they say in the Bullingdon Club is they knew George was really a Paddy?
We also learned this week, that it has cost us €3,163 to develop the Certificate of Irishness programme, which equates to €1.76 per Certificate issued. Now, you might think that with Certificates selling for €40 a pop, that we’d be in clover, but it seems we have a deal with the foreign exchange chain Fexco whereby they manage the scheme and keep any receipts. Given the number of certificates we’ve gifted with frames though, you can be pretty sure that Certificates of Irishness have not been a very profitable export.
The serious point to be made, is once Irish people emigrate, they are disenfranchised. For the year in which most recent statistics are available, 87,100 of us left and history tells us, they won’t return. It must fill us with shame to see Poles snaking around the block of their embassy in Ireland so that they can cast their vote. And yet, all we offer our Diaspora is a €40 Certificate of Irishness.
The parliamentary question and response is here.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will confirm the cost of the Irish heritage certificate scheme to date and specifically the amount paid to date to scheme operator, Fexco; and the projected amounts overall to be paid to Fexco to the end of its contract.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will confirm the number of Irish heritage certificates issued to date. .
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore: I proposed to take Questions 156 and 158 together.
With the vast majority of the global diaspora no longer eligible for Irish citizenship, the Certificate of Irish Heritage was introduced to recognise descendents of previous generations of Irish citizens in an official way and to give greater practical expression to the sense of Irish identity felt by many around the world.
Following a public tender in April, 2010, Fexco were awarded the contract to operate the Certificate of Irish Heritage on behalf of the Department. Under the terms of the contract, Fexco developed the web systems and necessary software. Fexco also process applications, issue certificates and are the initial point of contact for all customer enquiries.
To date, 1794 Certificates of Irish Heritage have been issued.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has spent €3,163 to date on the Certificate of Irish Heritage. These costs are mainly on technical issues relating to the websites which the Department owns (registering domains and security validation procedures etc.) as well as travel costs to meetings with Fexco in Killorglin and some photographs at the launch in New York.
No payments have been made to date to Fexco nor are any expected to be made during the contract period. Under the terms of the contract, the Department is not liable to Fexco for any costs associated with the establishment or operation of the scheme.