The Irish Senate initiated an important piece of legislation for anyone with Irish ancestry on May 11th, 2006.
According to information on the Genealogical Society of Ireland's web site:
The Genealogy & Heraldry Bill, 2006 will reform the provision of heraldic services by the State and it will make these services more accessible to the ordinary citizen of Ireland and the Irish Diaspora. It will create a new and less expensive procedure for obtaining a Coat of Arms for individuals, institutions, clubs and corporate bodies.
Sports clubs, schools, societies and others will be able to register their Coats of Arms and obtain legal protection for their own unique heraldic symbols including their flags and emblems.
To provide for these services the Bill will properly establish an Office of Arms for Ireland to remove any legal doubt as to the right of the State to make Grants of Arms and it will retrospectively confirm grants made by the non-statutory Genealogical Office since April 1st 1943.
The Bill will place the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland and its functions on a sound statutory footing and provide for an expanded role for this important Office of State under aegis of the Board of the National Library of Ireland.
It will repeal the fundamentally flawed Section 13 of the National Cultural Institutions Act, 1997 and provide a new legal basis for the Irish heraldic authority which has functioned in Dublin since 1552. The Bill will remove the absurdities surrounding copyright to Arms in present legislation. This Bill will make Ireland one of the few democratic republics in the world with a solid legislative framework for heraldry, another democratic republic with specific legislation is the Republic of South Africa.
The Bill will provide for the registration and protection of the Arms of Ireland, the Presidential Standard, the flags and emblems of the Irish Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána and other State agencies.
A new feature introduced by the Bill will enable the government to properly recognise meritorious citizens and others with a special Grant of Arms by harnessing an existing heraldic function of the State to meet the needs of a confident, modern and open republic seeking to provide due national recognition for an exceptional contribution to the development of the community or voluntary sectors or for humanitarian work overseas.
The Bill provides for the open transparent functioning of a modern heraldic office for Ireland as befits her status as a sovereign republic. It respects heraldic tradition and practice whilst applying such in a uniquely Irish context meeting the needs of the Ireland of the 21st century. It removes from the Irish context any semblance of the traditional heraldic practices that were considered to be inconsistent with our constitutional position as a republic and in doing so, the Bill will modernise Irish heraldry.
The Bill recognises the special position of place, local identity, county affinity and family roots in Ireland by promoting the development of heraldry as a visual expression of this heritage in a manner available to all in our community and thus removing, once and for all, the notion of the privileged exclusivity of heraldry.
The Bill through the licensing of heraldic agents will effectively repatriate a lucrative aspect of the production and sale of Irish heritage products by creating a facility by which individuals may obtain an authentic, certified and unique Coat of Arms for use by themselves and their descendants rather than purchasing fake "Irish family" coats of arms manufactured the world over.
The importance of our genealogical heritage to the citizens of Ireland and to her Diaspora is fully recognised for the first time in legislation in this Bill which will provide a National Inventory of Genealogical Records. It will also provide for the protection of records of a genealogical potential to prevent such being removed from the State or destroyed.
The Bill will create a special category for the returns of the first Census of Ireland taken following independence as this census is an essential resource for the study of genealogy and social history in the Irish Free State. The census taken in 1926 is the first since 1911 - the latter has been open for research for nearly three decades and the continued closure of the 1926 creates a huge gap in our understanding of the period which includes the First World War, the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War. By creating a special heritage category for this census of 1926 will make it available to family historians twenty years earlier than currently provided for.
The important contribution to the study of heraldry and genealogy in Ireland made by individuals and voluntary organisations is also recognised by the Bill through the establishment of advisory committees to provide an on-going consultative process in the development of policy and the delivery of services.
This Bill will end the legal uncertainty surrounding the delivery of heraldic services by the State by providing a modern legislative framework for the Office of Arms and expand its functions in an appropriate manner to meet the needs of this republic, its citizens and her Diaspora in the 21st century.
The publication of this Bill offers all with a genuine interest in Irish genealogy, heraldry and vexillology an opportunity to re-examine the issues which were raised during the debate on the 1997 Act, many of these issues remain unresolved or were unsatisfactorily or incompletely addressed during the debate or in the subsequent legislation. This is the time to resolve these issues through an open and constructive debate on the Genealogy & Heraldry Bill, 2006.
You can read more about the proposed legislation at the Genealogical Society
of Ireland's web site at
The text of the Bill is available on the Irish Parliamentary Website at http://www.oireachtas.ie. Look under Bills published 2006.