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Certificate of Irish Heritage

Official Irishness for the 70 million
who do not qualify for Irish citizenship

Certificate of Irish Heritage

The Certificate of Irish Heritage was launched in September 2011. Introduced by the Irish Government, the scheme offers the descendents of Irish emigrants a welcome official recognition of heritage.

Paddy and Bill in Killarney.

To apply, you need to state the name of your ancestor and, if known, their place of origin. If you're new to genealogy, you'll want some advice about how best to get your family history research started so that you can find these details.

In Summary

  • The Certificate of Irish Heritage provides official recognition of Irish ancestry to those who have roots in Ireland but who don't qualify for full Irish citizenship.
  • Under current rules, eligibility to Irish citizenship for people born outside the country is limited to those with an Irish-born parent or grandparent (see right-hand column).
  • To apply for the Certificate of Irish Heritage, you have only to provide the name (and place of origin, if known) of your ancestor from Ireland. You can submit a second name if you have two Irish ancestors, for example, great grandparents who left the island together. It is the applicant's responsibility to discover these details..
  • The first Certificate of Irish Heritage was presented to the family of an Irish American fireman who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. See below for the history of the scheme.

Official Certificate of Irish Heritage, framed.
How to apply

Applications can now be made online at the official website and there's a choice of three designs and three frames available.

The cost of the certificate is €45, while a frame adds considerably to the price ie €120 for certificate, frame and postage to the USA.

My own, completely independent research has found that recipients of framed certificates have been impressed with the quality of the frame and felt that the cost was equal or better than what they could have organised at their local framing supplier.


The notion of a Certificate of Irish Heritage was raised in summer 2010 by Michael Martin, the then minister for Foreign Affairs.

Announcing his plans he said: "Any discussion of harnessing the Irish Diaspora for the 21st century must commence with a recognition of how some 70 million people around the world can today trace their ancestors to this island.

"The modern global Irish family emerged from the generations of Irish emigrants who left Ireland out of necessity.

"...we in Ireland value and affirm the validity of this sense of Irishness felt by so many people abroad."
"Though many carved new and successful lives for themselves abroad, the emigrant experience was often one characterised by hardship loneliness and considerable personal sacrifice.

"As part of our commitment to building on their legacy, the Government has taken a broad and inclusive approach to defining our global community. The Irish Diaspora is not limited to Irish citizens living abroad or to those who have activated citizenship.

"Instead, it encompasses all those who believe they are of Irish descent and feel a sense of affinity with this country. I believe it is essential that we in Ireland value and affirm the validity of this sense of Irishness felt by so many people abroad."

Certificate of Irish Heritage
Following a change of Government, the Certificate of Irish Heritage was finally brought to fruition in early autumn 2011, with the Kerry-based company Fexco awarded the exclusive contract to administer the project.

Although government-approved, the Certificate confers no rights to citizenship. It was initially intended to encourage the diaspora to visit Ireland but was launched without any of the incentives originally planned.

The very first Certificate of Irish Heritage was presented on 20 September 2011 to the family of an Irish American fireman who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.

Since Summer 2014, each Certificate of Irish Heritage is signed by Charlie Flanagan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Jimmy Deenihan, Minister of Diaspora.

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Irish passport

Irish citizenship

The rules governing Irish citizenship were amended in 2004. Below are some of the principal features.

  • If you were born on the island of Ireland prior to 31 December 2004 you are eligible for Irish citizenship.
  • If you have at least one parent born in Ireland you are automatically an Irish citizen. It doesn't matter where you were born.
  • If, at the time of your birth, you had a parent who was an Irish citizen only through marriage, adoption or naturalisation, the rules are complex. See further details link below.
  • If you have a parent who was an Irish citizen but was not born in Ireland AND you have a grandparent who was born in Ireland, you can become a citizen. See Foreign Births Register.

Top Ten Bubbles

See my personal selection of the very best free online databases for Irish genealogy research. Click image.

Foreign Births Register

If neither of your parents was born in Ireland, but you have a grandparent who was, you can apply to have your birth entered in the Foreign Births Register. Your Irish citizenship becomes effective from the date your birth is registered.... it cannot be back-dated to the date of your birth. Note that your children can also become Irish citizens provided they are born after the date of your registration. Their births will have to be entered in the Register. Successive generations can maintain their citizenship so long as their births are entered in the register before the next generation is born.

Registration can take over a year. It is also expensive and a lot of documentation is required. Be prepared.

The DFA is responsible for the Foreign Births Register.

Further details

More information about eligibility for Irish citizenship

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By Claire Santry, Copyright© 2008-2015 Dedicated to helping YOU discover your Irish Heritage.
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