Cabinet reshuffle

Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 01:16

Sir, – Jimmy Deenihan has been appointed Minister of State for the diaspora. This can be viewed as further evidence of a recent and improving trend in the State’s relationship with the Irish abroad.

In the past 15 years alone, a dedicated “Irish Abroad Unit” has been established within the Department of Foreign Affairs, and exists alongside the Global Irish Economic Forum, the Global Irish Network, and immigration centres in Canada and Australia. These initiatives join the State’s Emigrant Support Programme, which funds almost 200 community organisations in over 20 countries, in a continued effort to recognise and invest in our citizens overseas.

Mr Deenihan himself has a long history of interest in this area. It is, as the Taoiseach put it, his “niche”. In a Dáil debate 23 years ago, he supported a Labour Party Bill that, if passed, would have allowed Irish citizens to retain voting rights in Ireland for a period of 15 years after emigrating. Debating that Bill in March 1991, he said: “Our emigrants have the potential to make a major contribution to our country. Many of them have been very successful in the various countries to which they emigrated and made contributions in different ways to life in those countries. By attracting their interest, giving them recognition and a feeling they have a role to play and a contribution to make in our country, we can only enhance our reputation as a caring nation.”

Mr Deenihan’s first order of business is likely to be issuing a response to last September’s constitutional convention, which ruled overwhelmingly in favour of allowing Irish citizens abroad to participate in Irish presidential elections.

The vast majority of modern democracies – over 130 states worldwide – have enacted provisions that count and account for their citizens overseas. Mr Deenihan, with a specifically developed portfolio and an proven interest in the diaspora, has an opportunity to modernise our attitude towards migration, citizenship, and the intersection of the two. – Yours, etc,

CONOR O’NEILL,

Rue Wayenberg,

Ixelles, Brussels;

DAVID BURNS,

Rue de l’Amiral Roussin,

Paris.

A chara, – Further to the appointment of Ministers with responsibility for the Gaeltacht, our Taoiseach would be well advised to recall the words of Nelson Mandela, “If you speak to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you speak to him in his own language, it goes to his heart.” – Is mise,

SEÁN Ó RIAIN,

Gort an tSeagail,

Achadh an Iúir,

Contae an Chábháin.

A chara, – Having a Minister of State who is responsible for Irish-language matters but who does not speak Irish sends out a poor message and will ensure snide remarks about Ireland.

The Irish state cannot be neutral about the Irish language. It is the only state that can support the Irish language.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny should rectify this situation immediately by appointing himself an tAire Gaeltachta and make it a priority that Irish is properly supported by the State. – Is mise,

SEANÁN Ó COISTÍN,

Rue Tony Dutreux,

Bonnevoie,

Luxembourg.