Our overseas readers tell us their experiences of the process of becoming an Irish citizen

Irish passport on Irish flag

With news that American star John C Reilly is to become an Irish citizen, we wondered how many people from overseas dreamed of doing the same.

Tens of millions of people around the world have Irish ancestry and most are deeply proud of their heritage.

In the UK, there has been an increase in British-Irish people asserting their right to Irish citizenship following the Brexit referendum.

Irish passport on Irish flag

This would mean they would still be EU citizens after the UK leaves the European Union.

At Ireland Calling, we wondered if people across the world also applied for Irish citizenship for emotional reasons, as well as practical ones.

We asked our social media friends to share their experiences of trying to become an Irish citizen.

Ann Martin told us it was a long and costly process but was glad she did it.

She said: “My mum was born in Ireland, so I simply gathered required documents and received my Irish Passport. I then gathered documents for my children born here in the US, submitted them for the Foreign Birth Registry.

“They received their Certificate of Citizenship, which was then submitted for their Irish passports. Long process, and securing all documents as well as application fees and postage add up…about $500 for each. But so glad we did it!”

Her sentiments were echoed by many others.

Bob Anderson said: “It is a ton of paperwork akin to a real estate chain of title. Need Birth certificates marriage and death certificate of ancestor you are claiming through.

“You then need your parent who you are claiming through birth marriage and if applicable death certificate. Your own birth certificate and if married your own marriage certificate. The Irish government issues a registry of foreign birth. You can then apply for an Irish passport.”

Pat Broderick said: “Mine started with an elderly priest in the parish where my grandfather was baptized, who drove a half hour each way to secure a certified copy of my grandfather’s birth certificate and mailed it to me.

“Found all the rest of the required documents on my own. It took a year and a half, but I enjoyed the digging and research.”

Doug Bowe told us: “I did last year! The paper chase was the hard part, so I hired a professional to get everything in order before I sent my application in. It took over a year to get all the documentation (dealing with New York City) and then 6 months for Ireland to accept me.

“I also got my passport, that took about 6-7 weeks, but I was able to do that myself since I had all the paperwork needed.”

Dorothy Page Kemp added: “I got registered in the Foreign Birth Registry then got my passport. It’s a lot of document gathering, but doable!”

Lisa Megna only realised she qualified after she spent time looking up her family history.

She told us: “I was born in the US, but my grandfather came over in 1914 from Kenmare. My father was unaware that he was an Irish citizen and when my father became ill I decided to do a bit of family research and I was able to discover that his family came from Kenmare.

“During my research I realize that I also could become a citizen and was very excited about that. The process was a journey, but well worth it and I’ve learned a lot about my Irish roots during that time.

“I have visited island continuously for the last seven years to learn more about where my grandfather came from and I also brought my children to show them where they are great grandfather was born in land as well as their great great grandparents were married since the church is still standing in the center of Kenmare.

“I may not have been born in Ireland, but I’ve spent many years studying it’s history and feel that it is as much my home as Boston is.”

Eddie Cunningham said: “I successfully petitioned for and received ancestry citizenship. Grandfathers birth certificate is written in Gaelic (can’t even read it). Took almost a year to process.

“In 2011, we applied through the Irish Consulate in Chicago. Completed their forms and attached all the documents to prove direct linage to Grandfather born in County Monaghan.

“Upon approval, Ireland places our American birth certificate on the Irish Registry of foreign births granting full citizenship. The system may have changed since ‘11.”

David Joseph Law is in the process of applying. He said: “My brother and I have been assembling the needed documents for a few years now. Repeated visits to a consulate office to verify when we had everything. My brother succeeds first, he just received his. I am one doc away now, should be filing within a month!”

Some people were finding the process hard going and say it can be difficult to find the relevant information.

Michael Moore told us: “I have been looking for proof of my grandfather John Moore birth in Ireland but armed with only a Birthday and general location of the north of Ireland free state. Once I do I look forward to being able to…But finding a specific John Moore in Ireland is like finding a Smith in the USA.”

Amy Carmicheal added: “My grandfather and his brother came to Canada from Ireland. I have a very Irish last name. But I could not prove that I am of Irish descent because there is no more paper-work associated with their emigration and no more contacts with any living relatives back in Ireland…(I am in Canada).

“If I were from Poland, in the EU, I could emigrate, but could not return to the land of my ancestors. (Feeling ripped off!)”

Shaun O’Brien said: “I’m a bit stuck with it. My grandfather was born in Ireland, but after his mum dies of TB at24 he was taken into a convent and was raised there. The problem I have is that when he got married the incorrect age has been entered!

“His death age marries up with birth certificate but not marriage! He may not have been given his correct date of birth. It’s hard when he refused to talk about it. From research I have all the information now but the Certs don’t match up.”

Elle Doherty-Porter was also having problems. She said: “It’s an awkward thing to have to be physically present then wait a certain amount of time just to get that coveted stamp.

“I have to get my parents birth, one death and marriage Certificate. It’s a nuisance if u have to do it by yourself and you’re 7k miles away.”

Not everybody was so keen on the idea.

Bonnie Hamilton said: “Although my grandparents were both born in Ireland, they left for a reason to eventually end up in America. I have Irish heritage but would never live there or claim to be a citizen under any circumstances.”

“At one time I thought it would be lovely to live there, but my family, grandkids, are here. Home, is and always will be, America.”

Last word goes to Steve Leyden who enjoyed the way the process revealed hidden secrets about his ancestors.

He said: “It was easy. A side benefit was unearthing skeletons in the family closet.”

Thanks to everybody who took the time to share their experiences with us. Click here to find out more about becoming an Irish citizen

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