'There’s a very deep history with Ireland as an emigrant nation'

Other countries look to Ireland for ways to connect with their diaspora

Minister of State for Diaspora Affairs Ciaran Cannon opened a conference in Dublin this week on Diaspora, Diplomacy and Development. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Minister of State for Diaspora Affairs Ciaran Cannon opened a conference in Dublin this week on Diaspora, Diplomacy and Development. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Engaging with the Irish diaspora is vital to maintain a good relationship with the millions of people living outside Ireland who have a strong connection to this country, a conference in Dublin has heard.

Speaking at the opening of a conference on Diaspora, Diplomacy and Development hosted by the Clinton Institute at UCD, director Liam Kennedy said other countries were looking to Ireland as an example of how to build strong connections with their diasporas.

“There’s a very deep history with Ireland as an emigrant nation. There are people with strong Irish affinity around the world and that’s a very positive thing for all us,” he said.

“It has great impact on foreign investment, it has great impact on tourism, and it even has great impact when you travel around the world, being Irish is a great thing.”

The aim of the conference is to share knowledge about diaspora engagement from different countries around the world.

Prof Kennedy outlined that engaging with our diaspora is not all about securing monetary investment in Ireland.

“It’s much more a two way process. How we can help them and how they can help us. Educating and advising each other, isn’t that what friends and family do?”

Mr Kennedy said Ireland had made advances in recent years, including the appointment of a minister of State for diaspora affairs, and the publication of a diaspora policy document in 2015.

“Right now diaspora engagement is something a lot of countries are looking at building so they’re coming here to look at how they can do that.”

The Irish diaspora is “craving an opportunity to engage” with Ireland, according to Joanna Murphy, chief executive of Connect Ireland, an organisation which promotes Ireland as a destination for small businesses, and rewards members of the diaspora for introducing new connections.

The responsibility is on the country of origin to keep doors open to its diaspora, Ms Murphy added.

Colman Lydon, who set up the Irish International Business Network in New York, said the “history of Irish Diaspora is full of good adventure stories” such as “turning over rocks in Nova Scotia and finding a person who has Irish heritage.”

Mr Coleman said that the heritage of your origin country is not something you own.

“We are custodians of our heritage. You don’t own it. You protect it and share it,” he said.