Irish Descent

We received the following message out of the blue last Thursday, and it prompted me to write to the author as it brought my thoughts back to an age old question ‘if I am of Irish descent and I have a strong sense of my Irishness why can’t it be acknowledged in a more formal way?’

irish_descentExtracts from the letter we received:

My name is Ryan McNelis and I am an American of Irish descent. I have over 40 million fellow Irish Americans, many of whom share my predicament. You see, I wish to have my birth registered in the Foreign Births Register so that I can become an Irish citizen. While I have no less than 4 (and probably 5) great grandparents who were born in Ireland, I unfortunately have no grandparents born in Ireland and do not qualify under current law.

I urge Ireland to change its citizenship by descent laws to enable people like me to become dual citizens of Ireland. I know many other Irish-Americans lament the fact they are denied the chance to become part of the Irish community.

Reasons to allow us to be citizens:

  • Allowing us to become dual citizens means we will spend more money in Ireland.
  • Many of us, including me, would like to consider retiring to Ireland, where we would collect American Social Security payments and serve as a net influx of funds to our new homeland.
  • There is no burden on Irelands social programs, none of us are seeking Irish welfare.
  • Most Irish Americans cherish their Irish ancestry, ties to the Church, and fundamental ideals in Republican forms of government, and strongly supported Ireland’s quest for independence, and should be allowed to become part of the Irish community.
  • Under current law, famous Irish Americans like John F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy would not be eligible for citizenship. These and others have helped shape the world in a positive way – Ireland should embrace them and their Irish American brothers and sisters with open arms.

Americans have a lot of money, and we like to spend a lot of money. We are highly educated and skilled workers, and could help serve the interests of Ireland either in Ireland, or in America. Look at President Obama, without the backing of Irish American voters he would never have won the election. Irish Americans are a powerful constituency in America and empowering them with dual citizenship would give Ireland a stronger voice in America.

If someone has 2 or more Irish born great-grandparents surely they have the same percentage of Irish heritage as someone with 1 irish born grandparent? yet one can only apply for citizenship in the latter case. Why not implement a 2 great grandparent policy? After all, it is the same percentage of Irish heritage as the current implementation of the law allows for.

Please change this law and policy.

Sincerely,
Ryan McNelis

The letter also included observations about nationalities without an Irish connection who are able to apply for citizenship, and how this engendered a feeling of disengagement by Irish Americans who are prevented from doing so. Ryan also applied some mathematical calculations to try and determine a percentage calculation of Irishness based on lines of descendency. I chose to leave this part out as we believe it should be based on the strength of ones sense of their Irish heritage, rather than who was born where and when.

Having received the letter from Ryan I wrote back to him with a few questions:

– Have you written to others.
– Are you aware of any recognition of the points made from the Irish government.
– Where in the US are you based.
– Are you representing yourself as an individual or part of an organisation.

Ryans response:

“Yes, I have been sending this to others, have sent it I think to every member of the Irish Parliament, and have gotten a few replies. I am not a member of any group, just myself, my family, and other similarly situated Irish Americans that would like to have the ability to become citizens.

Greece and Israel allow for citizenship through ancestry without regard to generational time limits, Ireland should do the same. It’d give Ireland a stronger voice in the world and greater access to other markets. It’s good for everyone and Ireland should seriously consider such a change.

I live in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the union, south of Boston, and east of New York City.
The entire greater Boston area is rich in Irish culture, home to the Kennedys, and incorporates Irish names into towns, streets, and sports teams. I am a law student, and will graduate and be admitted to the bar to practice law within one year.

I could polish up a better letter with more insight, but this was sent just to get the basic premise out and talked about. This is an issue I would love to see addressed and resolved. I visited Ireland once and would love to return on an Irish passport next time.”


Some will say nothing new here, its been a topic for discussion over the years, but I think there’s a couple of interesting aspects:

    Ryan is a young man, 3rd generation Irish, who feels the drive to get the discussion going again, and
    He’s raising this not when Ireland is in the middle of a boom, but in a recession.

My thoughts are along the lines that here we have someone who is future America stating his personal affection for Ireland. Someone who might not be recognised for this in Ireland itself unless he actually stands up and says so. Someone who still feels the Irish influences on his life probably stemming back to the late 1800s early 1900s. On top of that, given that Ireland is currently in economic difficulty, there is no apparent desire to capitalise on Ireland as a state. The emphasis seems to be more on joint benefit and the possible advantages of allowing dual citizenship for Irish americans.

Putting political agendas to one side, I hope we will see a renewed debate on this one. The Irish Government is currently initiating a global strategy to engage more deeply with the diaspora, and Irish American citizenship will we hope be part of the discussions.

Minister Michael Martin emphasised that the initiative forms part of a wider strategy of deeper Government engagement, and is intended to complement the Ireland-United States Strategic Review launched by the Taoiseach in New York on March 15th earlier this year.

You can get some information about the Global Irish Economic Forum here, and I will write more on ‘Irishness’ in another post.

Right now though let’s dwell on life from Ryans perspective.


Comments

Irish Descent — 57 Comments

  1. Cead Mile Failte!

    I am extremely greatful that this has been posted and will be discussed seriously. Hopefully, it will lead to a public policy debate that will remove the 1986 amendment that prevents one of my parents registering as a foreign born citizen and using that registration to allow me to register. Or better, perhaps it will lead to a more thorough reform allowing any 3rd generation descendent to apply.

    I wish all those on the message board the very best, and hope you will take any steps you can to embrace your Irish brothers and sisters across the sea, as we have embraced you.
    Never forget, our ancestors may have left due to famine and British oppression, but “though you can take an Irishman out of Ireland, you cannot take Ireland out of the Irishman.”

    Ryan (letter’s author and hopeful Irish dual citizen)

  2. Greetings, my brother Ryan wrote the first letter that got this discussion rolling, and I would like to add that I stand behind him in his efforts, and applaud any attempt to further this discussion. While it may seem like American arrogance for a non-citizen to argue for a policy change in another country, that is not the root of this message.

    Rather, it is a feeling of kinship, of pride and cultural identity. Our family has long treasured its Irish heritage, as many Irish-Americans do. The St. Patrick’s Day parade is a huge event in America in several cities, and is an official holiday in Boston, Massachusetts despite no religious holidays being observed officially by the US government. In every major US city, you are sure to find neighborhoods dominated by Irish Americans, complete with bars (pubs) and restaurants to match that culture.

    Point being, there are many Irish Americans that still cherish their Irish roots, and I believe many of the points have already been made on the merits of this discussion. I just add my comment to offer a bit of support for my brother and fellow “Irishman” at heart, and applaud his and any effort to discuss this issue.

    -Rob McNelis

  3. Dia dhuit A Chara,

    I agree entirely with you. The Irish government has been very foolish with immigration into Ireland, Irish people are now afraid given the amount of foreign mass-immigration into Ireland… the irish will be a minority in their own country by 2050 according to DCU Professor Ferdinand Von Prydzinski.

    We should be offering Jus-Sanguin citizenship to people like yourself whom have strong ancestral and cultural ties to Ireland, as people like yourself whom are attached to this place will make more of an effort to assimilate successfully compared to other people whom have no attachment to Ireland.

    I believe that if you’re predominently (I hate to use the phrase) “full-blood” Irish….. you should be allowed to come back home, regardless of how long your ancestors have been away from the homeland.

    Italy allows its diaspora to claim back as far as 1861! Before the country was even fully unified!

    http://www.politics.ie/culture-community/60106-campaigning-irish-diaspora-ancestral-return-rights-jus-sanguin-14.html

    http://www.politics.ie/groups/citizenship-rights-irish-diaspora-unrestricted-ancestral-return.html

    Check these out if you can

    Slán agus Beannacht

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  6. I am from ireland and live there. When I first read the tittle i was shocked that anyone would consider allowing that, but have now realised you are just as Irish as i or any of my family are. I would embrace 3rd generation irish being allowed passports and citzenship. I think it is grossly unfair as the system stands.

  7. My family are in the same position – not being able to apply for dual citizenship – 4 great grandparents all born in Ireland, and all ancestors prior Irish born ..So proud of our Irish heritage, but just not enough for the Irish Government.. Even though my ancestors settled here in Australia – the connection to Ireland is strong. We would love to be officially acknowledged as having a genuine connection to Ireland O'Regan Family

    • I share sympathy of your hardship……

      In 2002, two argentine girls of irish descent from a town named Duggan in Argentina.

      Applied for Irish citizenship: Well Educated, Fluent in Spanish & English and a very strong ancestral connection because most people from the town of duggan are direct descendents of irish immigrants.

      They were turned down because they were a generation too late……

      Utter Stupidity and they've allowed unlimited numbers of eastern europeans, africans and asians into the country…. all of whom have no concept or interest of what being irish is.

  8. This is a wonderful thing you are doing, seeing as how I am in a similar predicament. Maybe you should start a petition in some promenent Irish communities around Boston and New York? I'm sure you'd have many people who would back you up there. Keep it up the work you are doing! Eventually, there will be a change. Let me know if I can be of any help.

    • Hi Shamrock, and thanks for the message.

      Maybe it would make sense to start something here on diaspora.ie (possibly a petition as you suggest). I'll have a think about what we could do, and if we get something up and running i'll let you know.

      All the best for now,

      cheers,

      Mick.

  9. I sent a letter to ever member of the Irish Parliament, and even recieved a certfied & stamped reply from one or two MPs. To get this law changed, will likely take a movement within Ireland.

    To me it makes sense, for right now if someone had 1 grandparent who was an Irish citizen, but only because his mother was. And this same person had NO OTHER Irish ancestors…they would be only 12.5% Irish, yet would be entitled to become citizens of ireland.

    Whereas people with 8 great grandparents all being citizens of Ireland, and thus essentially 100% Irish is UNABLE to even apply to become a citizen.

    The people of Ireland need to ask whether a law that would allow someone who is 12.5% Irish be entitled to become a citizen, while denying people who are 100% irish that same opportunity. (even John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy would fail the requirements)

    As such, I think the law needs to be re-thought, and if the EU is going to become more unified, Ireland should match their policy of citizenship to those of italy and/or Greece, which offer citizenship by descent for persons with ancestors as remote as the 1860s.

    • I'm American. It seems like almost everyone over here can trace back to some Irish roots.

      But it is weird that my wife, for example, was able to receive Irish citizenship by descent through her Irish-born maternal grandfather. Weird because she has never been to Ireland. Weird because, technically, my wife is only 50% Irish (Irish-American mother), 25% German, and 25% Polish (her father is half of each). She also had a German last name until I came around to marry her.

      My wife grew up in a predominantly Irish-American neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Basically everyone on her block had descended from an Irish person or Irish-American. Pretty much all of her family's friends and neighbors considered themselves "Irish" and were very proud of that fact. It was expected at that time a person from their close-knit community would end up marrying a Keane, Shaughnessy, or O'Connell. So it wasn't altogether surprising that some of my wife's family members were initially uspet that my mother-in-law married a man with no Irish heritage — and a German surname to boot.

      • Both of my ma’s parents were born in Mayo , I’m proud of the fact that I’m Irish , but if people can’t even accept me, how can they accept you.

    • Anyway, it seems that the Irish government was more than generous to allow my wife to receive citizenship. But, I admit it doesn't seem entirely fair. Case in point: Several of my wife's family members are not entitled to Irish citizenship despite the fact ALL of their recent descendents are ONLY Irish-Americans. No Italians, Germans, Scots, or any other ethnic group but the Irish (Irish-Americans). They look and sound as Irish as an American can probably sound. They all have Irish names and some gave their children traditional Irish forenames. Unfortunately for them they do not have an Irish-born grandparent. And their Irish-born great grandparents didn't register foreign births here in America. It's a shame they have no entitlement to citizenship under current Irish law.

  10. Can you tell us… how do the people of Ireland feel about changing the current laws – regarding citizenship and is this topic raised or debated in Ireland.

    • Hi O'R,

      You're sort of hitting the nail on the head there. It's hard to get a feel for opinion in Ireland for the simple reason that it hasn't been debated enough. The general public havn't been presented with the topic and therefore little discussion about it.

      Having said that, the government made a commitment late last year to review how the country relates with the diaspora, so hopefully this will be an area that gets revisited. From my own point of view I think there should be a fresh look at this and some changes made.

      We'll be starting a forum here over the next few weeks, and i'll be including citizenship rights as one of the topics. If we can tempt enough Irish in Ireland to join then hopefully we'll get a view of peoples thoughts.

      All the best,

      Mick.

  11. Hi I am a descendent of a family that left in the 1847 1848 depression. I am very strong in my Irish heritage. I would love to live in the place where my family came from. I have always dreamed of going back to Ireland and this would help me get back to my roots. My mother is full blooded Irish and I am very proud of that fact.
    I hope this passes parlament so I came come home.
    Love and Light to all
    Cathy

  12. As a member of a family that has long-cherished its Irish heritage and someone who recently began exploring repatriation for me and my children, it came as a significant shock to learn that I am ineligible for citizenship despite the fact that at least 5 of 8 of my great-grandparents were born in Ireland (…still tracking the others). Count me as "available" to add my voice to any effort aimed at changing the existing law.

  13. I am about a 3rd generation irish my middle and last as well as my married last names are irish I have truely dreamed about Ireland since I was very very young. It would be more than amazing to go home it is all I have ever wanted and dreamed of. The music the culture everything about Ireland is more than amazing and I will visit and one day I will move home! I am devoted and driven and pray that this is reconsidered.

  14. I certainly agree with Ryan’s letter. I love my ancestry. Although my religious faith is Roman Catholic, I am Irish Catholic. I am an American that was confirmed Catholic within Ireland. This religious faith is strong, like my faith in Ireland. I will one day have an Irish Passport, whether the Government allows it through ancestry or not. However, it would be faster if they allowed through Ancestry. Cown and the Dial will not allow this until they understand the benefits. It’s a balance sheet. Do the negatives outweigh the positives? Unfortunately, this topic is relative to the individual wanting a Passport through Ancestry. You could do a case by case query but that would be too much. Objectively speaking, do the negatives outweigh the positives? This is not a discussion until you give the positive and negative facts. What are all the facts? Give the facts then start a discussion, otherwise it’s pointless. You can’t have a rational discussion without logical facts.

    Ryans letter address some these facts but not all.

  15. Here Here!
    I am all for giving we of the Irish diaspora passports through ancestry. I was born in Canada and so like many have a mix of Irish/UK/Euro and North America ancestry. I calculate however that 68% of my GG Grandparents were Irish born or of Irish descent. I know exactly where my GG Grandparents Redmond lived in Co. Wexford and where on my mother's side the family lived in Co. Tipperary. GGG Grandpa was an alderman of Limerick City. GGG Granduncle was Governor of Co. Galway.

    The GG Grandparents came over c.1850 and about 33% of the population was Irish at that time. Late in the 19th century in some areas it was as high as 90% Irish. The families left for economic reasons.

    How great it would be for Ireland to be like those countries that offer dual citizenship by ancestry.
    You'll get my vote and a Guiness too.

    John Redmond

  16. I found this definition of Irish diaspora on Wikipedia…
    Actually it is two definitions due to the Irish government's current legal definition and the more general usage of the term.

    "The term Irish diaspora is open to many interpretations. One, preferred by the government of Ireland, is defined in legal terms: the Irish diaspora are all persons of Irish nationality who habitually reside outside of the island of Ireland. This includes Irish citizens who have emigrated abroad and their children, who are Irish citizens by descent under Irish law. It also includes their grandchildren in cases where they were registered as Irish citizens in the Foreign Births Register held in every Irish diplomatic mission[3]. (Great-grandchildren and even more distant descendants of Irish immigrants may also register as Irish citizens, but only if the parent through whom they claim descent was registered as a citizen before the descendant in question was born.) Under this legal definition, the Irish diaspora is considerably smaller—some 3 million persons, of whom 1.2 million are Irish-born emigrants. This is still a large ratio for any country.[citation needed]

    However, the usage of Irish diaspora is generally not limited by citizenship status, thus leading to an estimated (and fluctuating) membership of up to 80 million persons—the second and more emotive definition. The Irish Government acknowledged this interpretation—although it did not acknowledge any legal obligations to persons in this larger diaspora—when Article 2 of the Constitution of Ireland was amended in 1998 to read "[f]urthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage."

    The right to register as an Irish citizen terminates at the third generation (except as noted above). This contrasts with citizenship law in Italy, Israel, Japan and other countries which make no legal reference to cherishing special affinities with their diasporas[citation needed] but which nonetheless permit legal avenues through which members of the diaspora can register as citizens."

  17. names carl Ó Domhnail i read this and as a full blooded irish i reckon ryan is right as long as ur blood ties back to Ireland iv recently gone to aus to vist some mates that moved their my blood ties go back to Manus Ó Domhnail leader of Ireland my mates moved from usa they are 5 generation irish but were refused citizenships

  18. If im honest im really quite shocked that you believe if your Great grand parents are irish you should be able to claim irish citezenship. Ireland as it is today has been built by the people who didn't emigrate, your great grand-parents left and in my opinion boycotted there rights, fundamentally you wouldn't know what its like to be irish, you probably have never breathed irish air. The country as it is at the moment is nothing like what your great grandparents left and they did not help to make it what it is today so why should you be given the right to citezenship just because you like the irish "brand".
    One of the main reason's claiming irish citezenship is stopped after grandparents is because you have 16 great grandparents and if there not all from ireland you could technically put in a claim for other citezenships and having 4-5 different nationalities is ridiculous.

    • Andrew Byrne.. 16 great grandparents all born in Ireland and still this is not enough to get citizenship in Ireland?? My great grandparent arrived in Australia desperate to survive… They never ever ever deserted the remaining family left in Ireland – quite the opposite always sending money back to Ireland. My family married back in to Irish families and this only re-enforced the handing down of being proud to be Irish. I am not seeking to be Irish because I happen to like the " brand" Irish.. The only blood that I have is 100% Irish and I think in anyone's thinking that would mean you are Irish

    • You must not know much about your "own" country's history and about the reason the people had to leave. You should look look into it instead of sounding ignorant. Andrew makes a good point. Most people sent money home to their family. I'll bet many of the Irish diaspora are more Irish than you. You sound like the type that sat around and let the brave fight the war for you. I'm sure that's what your ancestors did and they passed their entitled attitude on to you.

    • Both of my ma’s parent’s were born in mayo , my grandparents, under Irish law I’m eligible for Citizenship, people hate on me for my pride, will i be welcome back to Ireland?

  19. I am a South African with 2 great grand-parents born in Ireland.This family did not leave Ireland to live the good life , the financial situtation forced many to leave and earn a living elseware and send money home to support their families and the economy.Many would dearly loved to have gone home but the war and finances would not allow that.Some of us lost parents and grand -parents before these choices could be made.Many of us embrace our Irishness by passing on family names and by making sure that stories heard about the Emareld Isle are not forgotten even if the people of Ireland have forgotten those who had to make difficult decisions about leaving behind their homeland !

  20. Andrew Byrne.. 16 great grandparents all born in Ireland and still this is not enough to get citizenship in Ireland?? My great grandparent arrived in Australia desperate to survive… They never ever ever deserted the remaining family left in Ireland – quite the opposite always sending money back to Ireland. My family married back in to Irish families and this only re-enforced the handing down of being proud to be Irish. I am not seeking to be Irish because I happen to like the " brand" Irish.. The only blood that I have is 100% Irish and I think in anyone's thinking that would mean you are Irish.

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  22. I love my Irish ancestry I love everything Irish. I’m even an Irish fiddler. While working on my irish ancestry and reading stuff online about becoming an Irish Citizen through descent but than learning about how your grandparents and great grandparents had to be born in Ireland to qualify. but unlucky for me and my family, my 2nd great grandparents were born and raised in Ireland until they left in 1880.

    I would love to be able to have dual citizenship but Ireland doesn’t make it too easy with their descent law and everything is so confusing like can you be a citizen even though great grandparent was born abroad but never registered a grandparent’s birth.

    I never new about having to register a child’s birth to have Irish citizenship until today which makes me sad and mad that only if my grandparens knew and my mom knew about it than maybe I would be an Irish citizen today.

    Hopefully the laws will change someday to allow Irish citizenship through descent no matter how far back your Irish family goes.

  23. I certainly empathize with Ryan and others here. My grandfather was even raised in Ireland but he was born when the family was abroad in the UK. My great-gradmother gave birth to him in Nottingham and returned to Ireland a few weeks later. So not only were my great-grandparents born in Ireland but my grandfather was raised there but the Irish embassy tells me I am not eligable since my grandfather was not “born on the island”. I did a little legal research and I feel like this the law is not as cut and dry and the embassy makes it sound.

    The Irish Citizenship act of 1956 as amended in 1986 and 2004 states, “A person is an Irish citizen from birth if at the time of his or her birth either parent was an Irish citizen or would if alive have been an Irish citizen” (Part II section 7). The citizenship act of 1935 also had the same effect of making anyone born to Irish parents, an Irish citizen. So by the legal definition, my grandfather was an Irish citizen. Therefore I should be able to claim citizenship through him but the embassy still doesn’t think so. Does anyone know immigration attorneys that might be helpful here?

    Thanks.

  24. I am also one who would like to apply for a Dual Citizenship but, like so many, the connection for me are the great greatparents. I am a third generation American, but no doubt my blood is Irish. Their names are Breen and Gilligan and Mullins and Munroe. I thought I heard a while ago now that Ireland was considering putting in legislation to include the 480,000 Americans whose connection is the great grandparents but I never see any new news of it. I would most certainly obtain it if it was enacted or possible. Please forward any new news. KJR

  25. Holding an Irish passport allows one to travel all over the EU without restriction. Has anyone given this any thought. There may be a political disencentive to allow American born citizens of Irish descent allowed to move around Europe freely. Although the above claims are innocent enough, others may want to use Irish ancestory as means to access another 26 other EU countries.

  26. This is a very interesting idea and some of it makes sense to me and some does not, Here are my thoughts on a general level: (and I mean no offense to anyone)
    First off, I am a dual national with Ireland and the U.S and my father grew up in Dublin. I was born in America. I think the idea of Ireland allowing citizenship to “Irish born abroad” is a brilliant idea and there is nothing but good that will come out of it and benefit the people who claim it and also the country itself. I also think there needs to be some control on how many generations this law should affect. Just because someone might be ‘all Irish’ by blood does not mean they should be able to have citizenship. For instance, if someone is 100% Irish by blood yet has never been to Ireland they really don’t fully know about the politics/current events/modern culture and how it has changed over this last century. Modern day Ireland is different from what it was 100 hundred years ago, which has been in a good way but it is still different than when everyone’s ancestors left. I think the great-grandparent rule should potentially be allowed because it isn’t the 3rd generation Irish person’s fault that their parent didn’t claim Irish citizenship before they were born. Say, a 2nd generation Irish person had no interest in their Irish-ness so never claimed their citizenship but their children ended up being very proud of their Irish roots but could NOT claim it because they weren’t born to an Irish cit. I think in that case (in order to claim their citizenship that they weren’t able to have, they should have to live In Ireland for a certain amount of time, say 1-3 years and then would be able to claim it)…..But after 3 generations, it is almost pushing it a bit far. If you look at Americans, there are loads of people with Irish heritage from years ago, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should have rights of citizenship. Everyone would try to claim it. I would hate to see all of these non-Irish cultured people all over the world become Irish because they had a Great-Great-Great-Great grandparent from Ireland, yet don’t really care about the ideas of the country nor the country itself, and would just care about the fact that they would be Irish because it was “cool”. If that would be the case, I would weigh the priorities and advise against it.

    On a more personal level, I think the current law is just fine the way it is because a child (in most cases) grows up around their parents and/or grandparents and that is what they become….rarely the great-grandparents. So I kind of feel like after 3 generations a person loses the close, identity of being Irish.

    These are just some thoughts that I am throwing out there for you guys to catch! Best of luck to everyone and always remember to fight for what you believe in!

  27. I am not trying to be biased or anything, like I said, I hope I don’t offend anyone. I was just throwing things out there so I can know more about where you are coming from with this idea. I don’t know If it is a good or a bad idea. I want what is best for the future of the country as I am sure you do as well. So please comment back on my reply. Thank you! Also, I am curious…if the law ever were to change, what would they do with all of the citizens who were or were not citizens before the law went in to act? This might be an ignorant question because I am not well rounded in law and how that works. haha

  28. Hi there,
    Keith has a very decent point. People might utilize the “travel w/out restrictions” all throughout Europe that they gain via Irish Citizenship to their advantage, but like most people on this page, I wouldn’t want it for that reason. Anyway…
    I am a 17 year old male living in New Zealand. My Grandfather is Irish, born in Ross, in Ireland. His Mother (My Great Grandmother) married a New Zealander, and travelled to and from New Zealand for most of my Grandfathers childhood. Now, here’s where I’m quite confused. Because James (his name) is automatically entitled to Irish Citizenship by birth (which he claimed), my mother should be automatically entitled to Citizenship too, right? BUT, she only claimed it a few years ago. I recently tried and failed to obtain Irish Citizenship via my Grandfather because my mother didn’t have the Citizenship when she gave birth to me. What I’m confused about though, is the fact that I thought my mother gained Irish Citizenship at birth anyway, due to the fact that his father was Irish. Is this true? Or am I wrong… I don’t know. She was born and raised in New Zealand, and obtained her Citizenship through FBR. Because I assumed I was able to “be Irish”, I recently had started learning Gaeilge. I was so crushed when I was rejected, because I had my entire life planned out where I would Study, Work and Marry in Ireland.
    ANYWAY, the real thing I need to know now is is there anyway I could claim Irish Citizenship now? I heard you can claim through Marriage to an Irish Citizen, albeit you have been Married for 3 years and lived in Ireland for a total of 1… I also heard you can still work on a Visa, and use a “Work Permit” or something, but it’s really hard to obtain. Might be because Ireland doesn’t want to give Irish Jobs to foreigners because they need to get there own Countrys employment rate back up? I don’t know… It’s in the shit right now, and Dad seems to think they wont want to accept very many people… Any type of help would be appreciated, and thanks for taking the time to read this.
    PS: Does that make me a “Diaspora”? I don’t really understand the definition!
    But yeah, cheers
    Shaq

  29. Wow, I am a bit amazed to see this thread still going. I was the second post on this thread I believe back in 2009, when asked to do so by my brother, Ryan, who wrote the letter to begin with that is featured in this thread. (I shall be sure to inform him that the debate continues here at this website).

    I read some of the latter comments and have this to offer in support of reforming the law to allow past generations to claim citizenship where the current law prevents it. We’ve seen fears that it’d open a flood gate of distant people trying to claim the citizenship for some greedy or nefarious purpose. But why resort to such fear tactics?

    It has been mentioned that Italy & Greece allow distant generations to claim citizenship, have either of their countries been swarmed with unruly, ignorant Americans pretending to be either Italian or Greek merely to cruise about the EU on such a passport? —I highly doubt it.

    And therein lies the safety catch if you will. Go ahead and change the law…only those that maintain close and vigorous ties to Ireland will even be aware of the change. A vast majority of Americans or Argentinians will never know or care to learn of such a change. It’s true that these Irish people “lost their sense of Irishness” along the way as it was described, and don’t keep up with current events there.

    But for those “foreigners” that know the Irish law better than some Irish people do I’ll wager (on this one issue anyway), I’d gladly attest to each and all of those people as being sufficiently in tune and appreciative of their Irish culture to merit consideration of citizenship.

    That’s my thought on it. Fear tactics shouldn’t be used to silence the debate (not that this was the intention, still…a potential side effect nonetheless).

    Cheers.

  30. Glad the debate continues.

    What makes America, Ireland, and other Common Law nations great is 1 simple feature that is lacking in most other contries.

    The chance to be heard, and heard in a meaningful way.

    If you oppose the changes that allow someone like me who would be an Irish citizen BUT FOR the ignorance of the 1986 law restricting my application, then explain why I shouldn’t even be allowed to apply.

    If my father is a registered Irish citizen, as if 1998, and I am born in 1979, then currently I am blocked from even applying.

    I say, let me apply, and allow a human to determine whether I should be allowed to become a citizen or not.
    They could produce any number of a set of mechanism(s) to restrict floodgates from being opened.

    But to post here that you think a rule barring me because my father became registered in 1998 instead of 1986 is nonsensical.

    Just my opinion really.
    And I suspect the opinion of anyone with common sense.

  31. Hi,

    I am an American, via Canada. My great great grandparents were born in Ireland. I would love to become an Irish citizen…

    Is there anyone I may write to for assistance.

    Sincerely,

    Patrick F Sullivan, Sr.

    • Alas, poor Patrick, if you read the gist of this thread, or the letter my brother at the top, you are not eligible. There is an Irish law that prevents it that was put in place in 1986. There are some, like my brother, advocating for a change to this law. Really, as he last just stated, he’d like to leave such decisions to the discretion of the Irish government, and notes many potential benefits to changing the law.

      However, some in Ireland, fear that changing the law would result in many “foreigners” scrambling into their country to take advantage of various social programs, or some other reasons for being fearful of a change. Others there support the idea of a change to the law, because with the EU, many immigrants from all over Europe are free to immigrate to Ireland, and have absolutely no Irish heritage.

      Bottom line is this I think, what should the future of Ireland look like? Is Ireland to become a melting pot like America, and become a composite nation of many ethnicities from Europe? Or should it try to stem off such dilution by allowing those of us that left long ago to return when or as we wish?

      I’d recommend trying to get active in the push for changing the law as my brother did. Re-read this thread, and you’ll get some ideas as to what you can do.

      Best wishes,
      -Rob

  32. Have just caught up with this thread after some time, & glad to see it is still alive & kicking.

    I have, I think, solved my problem of obtaining citizenship – I am seriously thinking of emigrating permanently to Ireland. As an early retiree here I still have some good years left to dedicate to my ‘new’ old country!

    I am going on a visit next year, part of which will be dedicated to reconnecting lost contacts with my great-grandfather’s people in Tipperary, as well as other family members in other counties. I am looking forward to the trip no end.

    In the next five years I will be making several trips back (I hope!)to make sure I am doing the right thing & not jumping in without testing the waters first.

    Hopefully things will all work out for the best.

  33. Hi Anne, that sounds like a good plan!

    Things are changing in Ireland and house prices have dropped a lot in the last few years, and will probably stay low for the foreseeable future. There’s other new considerations looming, such as an annual property tax (assuming you’ll buy somewhere?), but i’m sure you’ll pick up on all this when you start delving in.

    One suggestion I would have is that once you decide on an area maybe rent a place for 6 months or so first. This gives you the opportunity to look at places without pressure, and just as importantly gives you a chance to get a feel for the local community and the various activities that might be going on.

    Sure ye’ll be grand! and you’re definitely taking the right approach.

    All the best,

    Mick

  34. What a great website! Once a year or so, I google this topic to see if there’s even a remote possibility that the law might change. My goal is to obtain an Irish passport before I die (I’m 53!) My mother’s paternal
    grandparents came over (to NY) in the late 1880s & it’s probable that her maternal grandparents came over a few years before then, but they’re are more challenging side of the family to trace.
    I read & re-read Shaq Coulter’s( from New Zealand) post above dated 7 July 2012; I believe he must have encountered some bureaucratic snafu; if his maternal grandfather was born in Ireland, then I believe BOTH he & his mother are eligible for an Irish Passport; in fact, I believe he’d be able to get one on his own.
    I remain ever hopeful that the great grandchildren of Irish immigrants who came to these shores & beyond will be able to honor their memories by becoming Irish citizens!. Adh mor ort !

  35. Hello, ironically, I’m a dual citizen, American born but italian by jure sanguinis. That is through my mother’s side. My great-grandfather was born in County Down. While I support this proposal of citizenship through jus sanguinis, using great-grandparents might pose some issues like for me, as this generation was technically living in a part of the UK.

    A few years ago I was visiting a friend in Dublin and my Irish friend told me two interesting concepts: First, his father was born in what is now Northern Ireland, but as he said so lovely, he’s Irish all the same. Secondly, on his trips to the USA, he noticed that Irish Americans often knew a lot more about Irish history, culture, and even language than what he felt his compatriots knew. I totally understand that, as it is weird to explain to other Europeans that while I am American, my family has only been here since 1911 for one GGP to my grandmother who came here in1948. I feel more passionate about WW2 Than I ever could about the American Civil War.

    I understand the fear that having one eu citizenship permits free movement to other member states, but once Ireland perhaps sees the success Italy has had might evolve. It took a while for Italy to have done that. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

  36. I too have a GGF who was born in Ireland, but had my GM in England, and she had my F in the USA. I have always made a point in my life to learn about Ireland and Irish culture. I’ve been to Ireland and even a bit of gaelige. While I’m not as Irish as many on here, I know where I come from and I have no shame in sharing it.

    My ultimate question is: How can we help? What else can we do to support this?

  37. Seems many of us are in a similar boat. I learned much by reading this thread from so many thoughtful and intelligent people. Thank you.

    Although my father’s maternal ggrandparent’s were famine immigrants, my mother’s Irish are a few more generations back. While I do have other ancestry aside from Irish, I can tell you that my heart, time, and studies have been devoted to Irish history, politics, and language. Where does that leave people like me in any proposed changes to the law? It’s bothersome that folks from completely different cultures can become Irish citizens thanks to the EU, but Americans, Canadians, and Aussies with much stronger cultural and genetic ties to the country cannot. I have records indicating much of my family kept in touch with kin for many years, with at least one great-grand Aunt returning to Ireland when the family’s fortunes improved…but it seems I’m not welcome.

    I appreciate and understand the arguments from those who wondered about the EU citizenship, and would there be those who took undue advantage. Also the arguments about the culture of the country being different than it was when our people left. Understood. But what country hasn’t undergone changes? We all learn, we all adapt. It’s those of us who APPRECIATE our Irish heritage who would be most intensely dedicated to learning more about the country, don’t you think? Certainly moreso than the culturally dissimilar EU-immigrants.

    I’d love to retire to Ireland (as another suggested above..and I admire her wise path to pursue it), but it looks like Uruguay (of all places!) would welcome me and my dollars more. :(

  38. I did some research online and according to this website I posted above, Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn seems to be on our side. If things could be more similar like Italy’s Jure Sanguinis laws, which were mostly conceived following the low birth rates in Italy, we may have a chance. Looking at wikipedia, Ireland, with a fertility rate of 2.0 is just ahead of Italy at 1.38. Ireland can also do itself a favour, as in require a certain level of proficiency in Irish (Germany requires B1), and charge an application fee, ranging from 500 to 1k euros. These two requirements, in addition to being of descent, could increase a lot of revenue for Ireland as well as putting an emphasis on the language, one that is far from easy and would demonstrate true energy put into the citizenship.

  39. Dia dhuit,
    I completely with Ryan. I’m fourth generation Irish-American, but my mother’s family is Irish as well as my father’s. I have at least 7 great-great grandparents who were born in Ireland, as over the four generations my family has been in America, only other Irish families have married into our family-tree, though I do not know if this was deliberate or not. I always knew I was Irish, I even speak a smattering of Irish Gaelic, but this summer I went with the People-to-People Student Ambassador Program to Ireland, and I was just struck with a sense of right-ness. We did some community work while in Cahersiveen, working and hanging out with other teenagers from KDYS . We would go to local parks and pull weeds some days, other days we would take an hour long bus ride out to the bogs to cut turf. I just fell in love with the land and the people, the lady who ran the guest house where the other girls and I stayed was the sweetest grandmotherly woman I’ve ever met, not to mention she was an amazing cook. I want to return to Ireland again, and I wish to move to Ireland when I finish college. Go raibh maith agat.
    -Emma T.

  40. Hello Everyone,

    I just dropped by this part of the website after signing the on-line petition calling for our emigrants to be given back the voting rights of which they are stripped when forced by the ineptitude – and worse – of others to leave their native land. (I urge all interested parties to sign this petition also, and to forward a link to it to other like-minded individuals.)

    Well done to all those raising the issue of citizenship-through-descent. “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.”

    In relation to both the issues of emigrant voting rights and citizenship-through-descent, I think it is a waste of time going directly to Irish politicians. The starting point is raising political consciousness on the ground in Ireland by engaging the support of the opinion formers, from media-types, through artists, to rock stars. Oh, and it might be no harm embarrassing our glad-handing politicians, when they arrive on your soil for St. Patrick’s Day, by asking them why they deny so many of their citizens the right to contribute constructively to their homeland’s future through voting in its elections.

    Meanwhile, best wishes to everyone, and keep up the good work!
    Kevin Mulderrig.

  41. I am a fifth generation paternal descent Irish genealogist living in my home county of lancashire, England… I am also of maternal… but slightly more distant Irish heritage… I am proud of the culture that spawned my forebears, whose name i bear.. I have traced my genealogy back through the most tricky paths to Co Limerick in the 19th century… What I want to know is why are other immigrants here ie the Asians allowed and indeed encouraged to reatin their heritage and identity, whilst we are not… and of course i would love dual nationality… My ancestors were forced by British policies to leave their homeland, the least the current crop of politicians can do is allow us our nationality back!

  42. Greetings again,

    Yes, I’m trying to keep tabs on this thread. I continue to be amazed that people are still talking about it. I recall years ago, my brother (J Ryan McNelis, the one who’s letter is atop this page) wrote to various Irish politicians about this issue. Back then, there was even some radio or television personality in Ireland that was also pushing for reform on this issue, I believe arguing something more in line with what Italy had.

    My question is this: for those living in Ireland, is this issue EVER discussed? I mean, it’s one thing if this matter is part of the dialogue there, but it’s another if it is merely a bunch of foreign born people complaining about the law. If it isn’t being discussed in Ireland, then how do we raise awareness about it?

    Any thoughts?

  43. perhaps different branches of the emerald society should get involved. I am a member of the emerald society of Missouri and there are branches all over the usa, I believe in Ireland too.

  44. I’m a great-grandchild of two Irish born citizens. My Grandmother is Irish automatically by rights. My Grandmother was an American anchor baby; they gave birth to her in the US and then raised her for her first 8 years in Ireland.

    I was born a few months after the 1986/1987 law was put into place. My father (born 1955) would have been ignorant to this change in law taking place.

    My Father lived in Ireland for a time when he was a teenager and continues to visit regularly as we have many Irish friends and family.

    I have also lived in Ireland. I graduated from Trinity College Dublin University with a Single Honors in Political Science in 2010. I have a vested interest in Ireland and I would love to move back, start a business, and buy real estate with my Father (I’m a London-trained chef and my father and I own a real estate business in the USA).

    My Father and all of his siblings are currently applying for their citizenship through their Grandparents (my great-grandparents). We are also applying for my Grandmother’s passport as she never got around to it (widowed mother of 8 children in the 1950′s–getting your passport isn’t a priority).

    Can anyone help me or know if I can hire an advocate? Are there enough of us organized somewhere where we can write letters to parliament together? I feel cheated as my father would have registered before I was born, had he known that it would be a problem for me in the future. He couldn’t have know about the law because my Mother was pregnant with me when it was written. The situation is so frustrating.

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