Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

Goodwill of Irish diaspora should not be taken for granted, conference told

Relationship between Ireland and its overseas citizens should be a ‘two-way partnership’, Tánaiste says

Tue, May 14, 2013, 20:00


Ciara Kenny

The Irish diaspora is a valuable resource to Ireland but its support cannot be taken for granted, a conference in Dublin heard today.

Speaking at the European strand of the Global Diaspora Forum in Killiney, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said maintaining a relationship with diaspora communities can have great economic benefit for any county, but the relationship “should be a two-way partnership”.

“You can never take your people abroad for granted or assume their goodwill,” he said. “It is essential that governments be attentive and responsive to the concerns and issues that impact on our communities abroad.”

Now in its third year, the two-day Global Diaspora Forum is an initiative begun by former US secretary of state Hilary Clinton to celebrate diaspora communities. Ms Clinton suggested Dublin co-host the event with Washington at a meeting with the Tánaiste in Ireland last year.

Mr Gilmore told 200 delegates that Ireland was engaging the diaspora in support of the country’s economic development through initiatives such as the Global Irish Economic Forum, the Global Irish Network, the Gathering and Connect Ireland.

But the Government was also ensuring emigrants “both longstanding and new” received much-needed supports by providing more than €11 million in funding each year for Irish organisations abroad.

The European strand of the forum was organised by the Irish International Diaspora Centre, which is working to create an Irish diaspora centre in Dún Laoghaire in Dublin.

Best practice
Director of the centre Gerry Dunne said Ireland “punches far above its weight when it comes to diaspora issues”, and has the potential to become an example of best practice in diaspora engagement and policy.

“By reaching out to our diaspora, we can create communities centring on business, technology and the creative industries. We can share ideas and collaborate to bid for business and implement initiatives for the common good,” he said.

An estimated 215 million people worldwide are living in countries they were not born in, an increase of 40 per cent over the past two decades.

Business editor of the Economist Robert Guest said cheap flights and new communication methods were changing the nature of global migration, with more people on the move than ever before. “Diaspora networks are much more like networks than they ever used to be, much more tightly connected to each other, which has profound consequences for the world,” he said. “It makes the world brainier . . . Diaspora networks speed the flow of information and ideas across the borders of the world.”

Speaking from the forum in Washington, US secretary of state John Kerry said the US “benefits from the hard work, the minds, the creativity and talents” of immigrants.

The forum continues tomorow with workshops on volunteering, tourism opportunities and networking. See