This week, the first Certificate of Irish Heritage has been awarded posthumously Joseph Hunter - a New York City fireman who worked hard to save people from the South Tower of the 9/11 attacks.
Joseph Hunter was last seen heading towards the South Tower with Squad 288 from Queens, New York City. He epitomises the strength and courage of Men of Action.
Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, presented the Certificate to Joseph's family at Maspeth Fire Station in Queens:
'Generations of Irish have been proud and privileged to serve with New York's finest - in the Fire Department, the NYPD and other emergency services.'
'We in Ireland felt the pain and loss of all Americans in the obscenity of 9/11 but we felt and particular pain in our hearts for those brave men and women of Irish heritage who lost their lives on that day'
'Joe ended up losing his life in the Twin Towers, attempting to save the lives of others... I don't think there is anybody more fitting to get the first Certificate of Irish Heritage than somebody who made such a sacrifice'
Joseph Hunter's heroic story featured in an RTE radio documentary called 'Still Waiting for Joe', which was broadcast toward the end of August. After listening to this radio show, it was decided that Joesph Hunter become the first recipient of the Certificate of Irish Heritage.
'Joseph was very proud of his Irish roots and in continuing the brave and selfless tradition of service given by the Irish to the FDNY... He would have been very honoured to receive the first certificate'
- Joseph's mother, Bridget speaking at the ceremony.
The certificate was first suggested by Ireland's Ambassador to Washington Michael Collins as means to strengthen the relationships between Ireland and some 70 million people of Irish descent in the world.
'We should look at ways of encouraging and facilitating people, who are not entitled to citizenship, to give expression to their Irish ancestry'
Michael Collins speaking in 2009
Ireland has always recognised its descendants and The Wild Geese Collection regularly celebrates the remarkable achievements of Wild Geese all over the world. For many, this certificate will officially symbolise their ancestry and remind them of the intrepid story that are a part of.
From the end of September, will start issuing the certificates to the public. Each Certificate costs $60 and must be verified by at least one ancestor from Ireland.