By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland's call to its 70-million-strong diaspora to make a show of their ancestry at up to 120 euros ($132) each went largely unanswered and the government as a result scrapped its "Certificate of Irish Heritage scheme" this week.
Introduced in 2011 as an "expression of the importance the government attaches to recognizing people of Irish descent", the certificates have been presented to famous figures such as U.S. President Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton and actor Tom Cruise.
But others, who like Cruise may have been able to trace their Irish lineage back to the 13th century, were less willing to part with 45 euros - 120 euros for a framed copy - to prove it, and just 3,000 were sold.
"It's a very good concept but certainly the take-up was lower than expected," Jimmy Deenihan, junior minister for diaspora affairs, told national broadcaster RTE on Tuesday.
The certificates, which quote the Irish constitution's pledge to cherish all people of ancestry living abroad and feature an image of an emigrant ship leaving the shore, were "a must have for anyone with Irish descent", according to the website where they could be purchased.
- PHOTOS: What's Brewing in Steamy Hallows, the Harry Potter-Inspired Cafe19 Pictures
- PHOTOS: Frida Kahlo at the Brooklyn Museum doesn't hold back23 Pictures
Prime Minister Enda Kenny presented Obama with his certificate during the Irish leader's annual St. Patrick's Day trip to the White House.
Obama's great-great-great grandfather is from the Irish village of Moneygall, which named a service station after the American president following his 2011 visit.
Other drives to mobilize the diaspora during Ireland's financial crisis proved far more successful. A year-long government-led campaign to lure visitors with Irish roots helped reinvigorate tourism and kicked off a recovery in the sector in 2013.
The government will continue to make special presentations of the heritage certificates.
"The people that I presented them to, including a number of (U.S) Congress representatives and senators, were very happy with them and when I visited Capitol Hill last January, they had them displayed in their offices," Deenihan said.
"That will continue and people are very proud of that connection."
($1 = 0.9069 euros)
(Editing by Michael Roddy and Mark Heinrich)