First ever Irish diaspora policy published by Government

Relationship between Ireland and emigrants ‘must be built on trust, respect and reciprocity’

 

The Irish diaspora “is both an asset and a responsibility”, and engaging with it “requires a sustained, long term effort”, according to Ireland’s first official policy on diaspora issues, published today.

Global Irish: Ireland’s Diaspora Policy is being launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton, Minister for Diaspora Affairs Jimmy Deenihan and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan in Government buildings this afternoon.

The relationship between Ireland and its diaspora “must be built on trust, respect and reciprocity”, according to the document, which outlines key ways the Government will connect with emigrants who have left Ireland, recognise their value to Ireland, and support those who are in need of assistance abroad.

During the course of a policy review, which began in 2013, more than 130 submissions were received from individuals and organisations with an interest in diaspora affairs. The last time such an exercise was undertaken was in 2002, which resulted in the Report of the Task Force on Policy Regarding Emigrants. The new document also contains policies relating to the wider Irish diaspora for the first time.

Speaking at the launch, the Taoiseach said encouraging emigrants to return home was central to the Government’s diaspora policy.

“Emigration has a devastating impact on our economy as we lose the input of talent and energy. We need these people at home. And we will welcome them.”

He said he expected 2016 to be the year when the number of Irish returning would outnumber the number leaving after seven consecutive years of high emigration rates.

Welfare projects

A new interdepartmental committee, chaired by the Minister for Diaspora Affairs, will meet four times a year to ensure Government is working together to address issues concerning the Irish abroad and those who want to return.

Ireland's Diaspora Policy

Welfare projects supporting vulnerable Irish people abroad will continue to be prioritised for funding under the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme, which has provided €126 million to support 470 organisations in more than 30 countries in the past 10 years.

Ageing communities in traditional centres for Irish emigrants such as the UK and US, Travellers, prisoners, the undocumented Irish in the US are identified as being in particular need of support. Projects working with people suffering isolation, depression and other mental health difficulties will also be prioritised.

A total of €11.6 million will be available under the ESP in 2015, with an additional €1 million for new initiatives supporting local communities to develop relationships with their diasporas. This will include the development of a “toolkit” for local authorities and Local Enterprise Offices to help them connect with people from that area now living overseas.

Popular destinations

A new “Global Irish” online hub on the Department of Foreign Affairs website will provide pre-departure information for emigrants on the most popular destinations for Irish people, with details of Irish organisations and networks, and tips and advice on settling into a new home abroad.

It will also provide information on returning to Ireland, with details of jobs and training opportunities, housing, education, and how to set up your own business. Emigrants will be able to sign up to an online register to receive regular newsletters by email from the Global Irish hub.

A Global Irish Media Fund will be set up to support media outlets in Ireland and abroad to tell stories about Irish emigration and the diaspora, and the impact of emigration on those left behind.

Business networks

Cultural projects celebrating Irish sport, music, dance, language and literature will continue to be supported through the ESP, as will business networks connecting Irish professionals and companies worldwide. A fourth Global Irish Economic Forum will be held in November.

Following a similar model to the economic forum, “ordinary Irish emigrants” and community leaders overseas will be invited to the first ever Global Irish Civic Forum in June, which will meet to discuss the challenges facing the Irish abroad.

The policy document does not include a commitment to extend voting rights to Irish citizens overseas, which Mr Deenihan had been hopeful of introducing when he was appointed as Minister last year.

The Constitutional Convention recommended in 2013 that emigrants be given a vote in Presidential elections.

Mr Deenihan said that while the issue of voting rights was “of enormous importance to many Irish citizens abroad”, it would be “challenging to introduce and to manage”.

He said the Government had decided it is “necessary to analyse the full range of practical and policy issues that would arise in any significant extension of the franchise, before any decision could be made on the holding of a referendum”.

Download a copy of the full Global Irish: Ireland's Diaspora Policy here.

What do you think of the proposals outlined in the policy paper? Let us know in the comments section below.

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