Bishop wants minister for emigration to be appointed


THE GOVERNMENT should appoint a minister with responsibility for emigration, chairman of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Emigrants, Bishop John Kirby, said yesterday.

Speaking at the launch of an emigration information pack compiled and published by the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants, the bishop said he was “disappointed” such an undertaking was still necessary. He said he had witnessed “countless waves of emigration” in the past and today saw the phenomenon “etched in the lives” of those to whom he ministered.

“I see the same pain and sense of loss that had been witnessed by previous generations,” Bishop Kirby said.

“Time may have changed the circumstances and the reasons but it does not ease the pain and trauma when a person you deeply love has to leave home to seek a better life abroad.

“Forced emigration sees sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, grandsons and grandsons and even parents leaving their home to seek work abroad,” he said.

The bishop said the “tragedy” of emigration is that it separates people “from one of their greatest supports and strengths and the inspirational elements in their lives, namely their families”.

Describing emigration as a “scourge”, he called on the Government to consider appointing a minister with specific responsibility for those who have emigrated. He said it would be “appropriate” that the annual St Patrick’s Day visits undertaken by Ministers should always include meetings with emigrants, emigrant centres and chaplaincies abroad.

Such an initiative would have a “dual human benefit”, he said. “We in Ireland would be reminded of the plight that faces our emigrants and our emigrants in turn would be reminded of the support that exists for them back at home.”

Council board member Fr Alan Hilliard spoke of his experiences with Ireland’s modern-day emigrants.“One new phenomenon that’s emerging is of people working abroad to send money home to pay their mortgage,” he said. “We are used to people sending money home but never for that.”

He said emigration looks after people who are highly qualified and have money. “The points-based system works like that.

For people who are looking for jobs in the lower skilled market there are very few entry opportunities for them, he said.

“If it doesn’t stop soon, we’re back to the fifties. And, anyone who remembers the fifties doesn’t want that.”