So, there are probably more than 100 million of you out there? You live all over the globe but are concentrated in big numbers across Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina and New Zealand: basically, anywhere you or your forebears could make a living.
You are known as the Irish diaspora, an obscure, joyless term that cannot begin to convey the cultural affinity and sense of identity you feel because of your Irish heritage even if you have never set foot on the island of Ireland itself.
Many of you have recognisably Irish surnames; many do not. Many of you have recognisably Irish forenames; many do not. It doesn’t really matter. Witness St Patrick’s Day across the world: Ireland is a state of mind, rather than a piece of ground.
You don’t need to be born in Ireland to be Irish. Your parents or grandparents don’t even need to have been born here. Yes, it is true these entitle you to citizenship but for most people born elsewhere and proud of their own countries, this isn’t about a passport; it is much more deeply rooted.
You know in your DNA you are Irish, or at least part-Irish, whatever that means. You are treated as such, for good or bad. A common ancestry gives you an identity distinct from the place where you happened to be born. Being Irish stands for something: it brings with it a sense of belonging.
Being Irish is something to be immensely proud of: it is a part of who you are.
In recognition of the bonds between those whose forebears left this island, the Irish Government has created The Certificate of Irish Heritage. This personalised official document is intended to have pride of place in every Irish home or office space across the world.
Appropriately, we are launching our new resource charting the stories of our readers in the week commemorating the assassination of President John F Kennedy – a true son of Ireland who in many ways symbolises what the Certificate is all about.
JFK’s roots were steeped in Irish heritage and tradition on both sides of his family. Everyone in Ireland celebrated his Irishness and his face looked down from many an Irish hearth, even though as a great-grandchild of an original emigrant he would not have been entitled to an Irish passport.
In the coming weeks, months and years we would like to use this site as a platform for you to tell your Irish story. Tell us about your ancestors and their unique tales. We have received numerous interesting contributions to date and we are sure the Irish love of storytelling will ensure there will be far, far more.
We would also love to share any mementoes you might have that are Irish-related. Perhaps your ancestors were in the Irish branches of trade unions or the Ancient Order of Hibernians and there are family stories of their lives, or perhaps they even kept a diary? Or maybe you have a prized family heirloom or batch of letters or old songs about events around emigration that deserve attention?
Please share your stories of Irishness for others to enjoy and for posterity. We will weave them into this site, where they will form a small part of this nation’s rich tapestry. And, of course, please drop back to us from time to time to enjoy our site; the virtual kettle is on the hob.
Please tell us your story and send us a photo of your Irish ancestors if you have one. We look forward to hearing from you