Other Voices: Cut taxes to bring Irish abroad home, festival told

Session on diaspora told nostalgia not enough to draw back talented Irish people

A Generation Emigration panel of members of Ireland’s “creative diaspora” heard at Other Voices that attracting emigrants back to Ireland was not dependent on particular initiatives or incentives, but about making Ireland a more attractive place for everyone to live, whether they had left Ireland or not.

A Generation Emigration panel of members of Ireland’s “creative diaspora” heard at Other Voices that attracting emigrants back to Ireland was not dependent on particular initiatives or incentives, but about making Ireland a more attractive place for everyone to live, whether they had left Ireland or not.

 

Ireland will have to reduce income tax rates if it is serious about encouraging high-earning Irish professionals living abroad to return to Ireland, Eamon Sinnott of Intel has said.

Speaking at a conference entitled Ireland’s Edge: Creativity, the Diaspora and Ireland’s Potential at the Other Voices music festival in Co Kerry, Mr Sinnott, who is vice-president of technology and manufacturing at the company, said nostalgia would not be enough to draw talented Irish people back home.

He said there were “a lot of fantastic opportunities” in Ireland for talented professionals now, even for young graduates, but that the jobs on offer would need to “fulfil their economic and professional ambitions as well as their cultural and social ones”.

“The kind of people we are talking about wanting to attract back have a choice about where they live, and comparatively, our tax rates are very punitive,” he said.

Major survey

Piaras Mac Éinrí of the Department of Geography in UCC said the issue of taxation was not raised at all during a major survey of recent Irish emigrants on their motivations for leaving Ireland, carried out by his researchers in 2013.

“Nobody mentioned the tax rate as a reason for coming home or not,” he said, “but they did mention the quality of work, career expectations, and specific issues such as the health system and education.”

Operations director of Lonely Planet Noirin Hegarty said family was the most important thing drawing people back to Ireland. Ms Hegarty, who moved back to Ireland from Australia because she wanted her children to be educated here, said it was vital the supports were in place to make the move easy for families.

Director of Ireland 2016 John Concannon said if Ireland wanted to attract its diaspora home, it should strive to “become the best country in the world for primary education”, because having your children educated in Ireland was a strong motivator for Irish emigrants to return.

‘Creative diaspora’

A Generation Emigration panel of members of Ireland’s “creative diaspora” heard that attracting emigrants back to Ireland was not dependent on particular initiatives or incentives, but about making Ireland a more attractive place for everyone to live, whether they had left Ireland or not.

Writer and filmmaker Dave Tynan said increased funding for the arts was essential to keep people in creative industries here in Ireland, and to bring them home. “Lots of people are forced out of the arts before they are forced out of the country,” he said.

Recognising that he was “one of the lucky ones” who was now receiving funding from the Irish Film Board, he said he still only earned €10,000 last year. “The arts is a middle-class thing,” he said.

Nicky Gogan of Still Films said Ireland Inc uses culture to sell Ireland abroad, so the Government “needs to put its money where its mouth is” and increase funding for the arts.

Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan said the Government wants to “start a national conversation” with Irish people abroad about coming home to work in Ireland.

Clear message

He said a clear message needed to be sent out to “so many people of talent and energy” who had left Ireland in response to the recession - that “we want these people to come back”.

“We want to see them playing their part in the rebuilding of our economy, bringing home their experience to take up some of the jobs that are now being created. We want them back amongst their families and friends,” he said.

The “conversation” will take place on social media using the hashtag #hometowork, which will help to spread awareness among the “global Irish family” about job opportunities in Ireland. It will be particularly active over the Christmas period when so many emigrants will return to visit.

Mr Deenihan said an interdepartmental group was examining the “barriers that stand in the way of returning emigrants” such as the cost of housing and childcare, access to education, and insurance premiums levied on returnees. The Irish abroad can use the #hometowork hashtag to share their concerns about these barriers too, the Minister said.

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