Limerick study shows how local authorities can engage with their diasporas

Irish abroad with connections to city and county say they want closer ties with home

Spring was in the air at Limerick City Hall earlier this week when Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan launched the Limerick Diaspora Study and Survey, the first detailed and scientific study undertaken by a local authority of the attitudes of its diaspora to their connection to their home place.

There are a number of reasons why Limerick undertook this work. As holder of the inaugural National City of Culture in 2014, a tremendous year for the city, we saw a heightened sense of connection with our diaspora as they visited for the various events, and followed developments on social media.

During the year of the Gathering in 2013, a project strongly embraced by Limerick, we saw just how powerful the response could be when the home place reached out and invited back those who had left.

Encouraged by Limerick native and chairman of the Gathering Tim O'Connor, Limerick City and County Council chief executive Conn Murray sought to build on the legacy of the Gathering by exploring whether a more ongoing, sustained relationship could be developed with our Limerick diaspora.


He assigned me to take it forward, and aided by a dedicated working group made up of local stakeholders which included the three higher education institutions, we set about exploring how best to forge closer, longer-term ties with our Limerick diaspora around the world. We gave the project the working title, the Global Limerick Network (GLN).

To find out what our diaspora thought about developing closer ties, we commissioned a survey which was answered by almost 400 people with Limerick connections scattered around the world.

The responses were analysed by Sarah Gibbons, a social scientist and returned emigrant, and the findings are very encouraging. Those responding said three main things to us:

“ Wherever they are in the world, being from Limerick, or associated with Limerick, is an important part of their identity;

“ They want more information about, and communication with, Limerick;

“ They want positive stories about Limerick.

The GLN working group will now begin developing the technological platform to provide the information our Limerick diaspora is seeking.

We see the diaspora initiative as part of a wider agenda of change under the Council's Limerick 2030 Plan. We live in a global world and Limerick, with Shannon Airport and Shannon Foynes Port as two great connecting points to that wider world, is brilliantly positioned to take full advantage.

But every strategy is about people. Limerick people living around the world are an integral part of our community, and this study is telling us they think the same.

We also see our Global Limerick Network project as part of exciting wider developments in diaspora strategy at national level. Jimmy Deenihan’s appointment as the first ever Minister for the Diaspora was a hugely significant development in that regard, and we were very pleased on Monday when he indicated the new National Diaspora Strategy, which he is currently finalising, will give a central role to local authorities.

For too long, there has been a gap between Ireland and our diaspora, but that gap is now closing all the time. In Limerick we are full of hope about what we and our people around the world can achieve together.

Dr Pat Daly is director of services, economic development and planning at Limerick City and County Council, and chairman of the working group of the Global Limerick Network. For more about GLN, see