A Letter from Ireland:
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A Tale of Dual Irish Citizenship and a Little More

In this week’s letter, we look at Dual Irish Citizenship – by way of a tale of two Irish saints and a movie star. I have put specific links to help you understand the process for applying for dual Irish Citizenship at the end of this letter.

Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to this week’s Letter from Ireland. We’re coming into late August, and I felt a slight whiff of Autumn air here in County Cork the other morning! Hard to know where the summer is going, with the schools opening up again next week. How are things going in your part of the world?

I’m settling into a nice cup of green tea, made by my good friend Seàn McCarthy here in Cork (shouldn’t all Irish tea be “Green Tea”?), and do hope you’ll join me with a cup of whatever you fancy yourself as we settle into today’s letter! Over the last couple of years, I have noticed many readers mention that they have combined Irish citizenship with that of their own country – and many more asking what it takes to apply for dual citizenship.

How about you – do you hold dual Irish citizenship? Would you like to? Do let me know in the comments at the end of this page. So, in this letter, we are going to ramble through a few stories and a tale of dual citizenship – but we’ll tie it all up nicely in the end!

Two Irish Saints of The North. 

I was speaking with Emmet Kearney, a County Longford man, during the week.

“Are you heading back to Longford the weekend?”

“I am – I’m starting back tomorrow”.

“Did you see the programme on Saint Mel’s cathedral in Longford town the other night? An amazing story”.

“That’s a great story alright. Burned down on Christmas day – it must have been devastating – and rebuilt over the last 4 years, it was some effort.”

“I suppose you’ll be marrying the daughters off there one of the days?”

“Hah! That’s a good way off yet. Come here, do you know who is named after Saint Mel?”

And we’ll get back to Emmet’s answer later.

Saint Mel (Moel) was a nephew of Saint Patrick, and assisted him in his missionary work through Ireland during the 5th century. When Patrick built a church in Ardagh in what is now County Longford, he appointed Mel as the local bishop. He became the archbishop of the wider dioecses of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise – and the Cathedral we were chatting about earlier in Longford town was built in his honour. He is also a patron saint of single people (that would be all of us, once!). As a result, there is a strong tradition of devotion to Saint Mel for many people from County Longford.

We came across another Irish saint last week. We were visiting the lovely Derry city on the north coast of the island, a great spot right on the border between Counties Derry and Donegal. It was built on the site of an abbey established by another Irish saint, Saint Columcille (also known by his latin name, Saint Columba). He left Derry in 563AD and established his monastery on the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland.

Columcille (a Donegal man) lived about 150 years after Saint Mel, and is credited with spreading Christianity across all of Scotland through his missionary work. It’s hard to visit a county or town in Ireland these days that does not have a church, abbey or townland associated with this saint. In fact, if you travel to Saint Mel’s County Longford, you will find a whole parish named “Colmcille”.

Anne Patricia Reilly was born in this County Longford parish of Colmcille about 1920. She was schooled and reared in the area, but like so many youths of the area at that time, she left to find a better life (and probably some more excitement) in the USA. She arrived in Brooklyn in New York, found a job – met her husband and together they had 10 children together. However, although her new home was in the USA, her County Longford roots ran deep.

A Journey to the Heart of the Island. 

This time last year, we were on our way up to County Longford, and we stopped off in the “Royal County’ of Meath. It was called “Royal”, being the seat of the Irish High Kings down through the centuries. We called into the town of Trim – and the castle that sits at it’s heart.

Trim Castle

Trim Castle, County Meath.

Trim Castle was built by the Normans in 1172AD and is, I believe, the largest standing castle in Ireland. It is such an evocative setting, with so many layers of history attached to it’s walls. A tour around the castle has been labeled as one of the top 10 educational sites in the world by National Geographic. High praise indeed. Have you ever visited this wonderful castle?

The castle has also featured in a number of movies down through the years, most notably it played the City of York in the early 1990s movie, Braveheart. Although set in Scotland, Braveheart was filmed in both Scotland and Ireland – across County Wicklow and Meath. A great film – one to raise the blood temperature! What do you think?

One Movie Star and the County Longford Connection. 

I don’t know what you make of all the negative media exposure Mel Gibson has had over the past few years, but it is hard to deny his creativity and achievements as both an actor and director. When Anne Patricia Reilly met and married Hutton Gibson in 1944, she reached back into her County Longford roots and named one of her boys after the two saints associated with her homeland. Saint Mel of Ardagh, and her local parish of Colmcille. And so he came to be named “Mel Colmcille Gibson“.

And given that Mel Gibson has an Irish-born mother, Mel decided to hold both Irish and US citizenship – and the passport for both countries. As is the right for all people born outside Ireland who have a parent or grandparent that was born in Ireland.

I guess that Bishop O’Reilly of Ardagh may have reached out to Mel Colmcille Gibson to assist with restoration of Saint Mel’s Cathedral. It was burned down on Christmas Day, 2009, but restored and reopened on Christmas Eve, 2014 – and is now in fine condition. It was the largest ecclesiastical restoration project in Europe during that time. And supported by Irish citizens from all over the world.

Where to Find Out More About Dual Irish Citizenship. 

As always, if you would like to say hello – or ask a question – please leave a comment below.  In the meantime, here are those links for discovering more about obtaining dual Irish Citizenship:

Do let me know how you get on.

Slán for this week,

Mike and Carina : )

  • Hello, my daughter and I recently visited Ireland for the first time. We absolutely loved it and will return soon, I hope. We visited the birthplace of my grandfather on my mom’s side in Wicklow. He was a Murphy and his mother was a Fitzpatrick. I learned that I could have dual citizenship and am very interested in doing that. Thanks for the information.

  • Charlene McCarthy says:

    I would love to become a dual citizen of Ireland where my great-grandparents migrated to the U.S. from.
    I have visited Ireland and never had such a unique feeling of “being home” in my life.
    I’m almost certain my father, grandfather and/or great-grandfather did not register with the Foreign Births Register, How would I find out if they had?
    Are there any other options available to me so I could acquire dual citizenship?
    My great-grandfather, Charles McCarthy was a son of Owen McCarthy and Anna Griffin born in Mahoonagh, Co Limerick.

  • Roberta Reynolds says:

    Dia daoibh

    I hold dual citizenship with the U.S.
    It was a fairly easy process but one must be sure to have all their “ducks in a row.” All original documents are required so actual birth/marriage records had to be obtained through town hall. Sounds worse than it actually was. I went through my mother’s mother’s blood-line which created the need to prove bloodline through 2 name changes (grandmother’s and my mother’s). The consulate was helpful and returned all my original documents in a timely manner and in perfect condition.
    I am now considering getting my Irish passport, but I understand the U.S. will always require I use my U.S. passport for re-entry.
    And why did I do this? Besides my Irish-lineage pride, I hope to retire somewhere off-the-grid and I though a few more doors might be open to me as a European citizen.

  • Hello. I have been a subscriber for over a year now and continue to enjoy my letters from Ireland. I would love to visit one day. Meanwhile, I was hoping you could tell me something about the surname” Denning”. We have alot of Jesse Dennings as well as William and Henry in our family. I believe it has also been known as “Dunning”. I do know that our family tells of six brothers who came to the US. It seems after they immigrated, that 3 brothers stayed & the other 3 later returned to Ireland. I know this isnt alot to go on…but I would appreciate anything you could tell me regarding the name. No matter how small. Thank you so. Sincerely, Robin A. (From North Carolina, USA) p.s. Yes I am a female.

  • Rita cooper says:

    Hi mike I live in Victoria Australia and I notice you mentioned above my great grandmothers surname McCarthy and my fathers side Kearney’s ..Bridget kearney married Patrick Ryan and had Ann in Limerick …my Mary McCarthy married James griffin in gort mid 1800s they all emigrated to Aust I cannot find anything on them (I have a lot of Irish ancestors) my grandmothers both sides were Irish … I don’t know if your friends may be connected to them, they are all brick walls to me cheers Rita

  • Ellen Rivers says:

    We were brought up as “Americans”. My mother was born (1894) and brought up on Cape Cod. She had an English sounding last name , Ormsby. Her family didn’t broadcast being Irish or Catholic. When I visited Ireland a few years ago I had the strangest feeling of belonging. Her family was from Roscommon, Galway and Waterford. My paternal family name is Sullivan from Roscommon. Any relatives out there?

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  • […] I’m often asked questions about parishes and townlands in Ireland. In this case, one woman decided to name here children after her own local parish and local saints. One of them went on to become a Hollywood movie star and director. Click here to read the letter. […]

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