Israel-style youth trip could attract Irish diaspora to visit Ireland

Public meetings being held across Ireland to communicate State’s 2020 diaspora policy

Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon: Highlighted the activities of the GAA as particularly important in promoting and supporting Irishness among the diaspora. File photograph: The Irish Times

Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon: Highlighted the activities of the GAA as particularly important in promoting and supporting Irishness among the diaspora. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

The introduction of an education tourism project which would see members of the Irish diaspora visit Ireland on a month long, State-sponsored trip should be considered under the Government’s Global Ireland project, participants in a public consultation have heard.

The proposal, which could be based on the Birthright Israel initiative which sees young Jewish adults aged between 18-26 spend 10 days in Israel, was just one of a number of suggestions raised at a public consultation held in Iveagh House on Wednesday as part of Government efforts to improve the State’s connection with is worldwide diaspora.

Other suggestions included a Gaisce-style award for young Irish people doing exceptional work overseas and a welcome app for Irish arrivals to new countries which would connect them with the local embassy.

A more up-to-date use of social media, through platforms like Instagram, would also help the Government to stay in touch with the diaspora while a “cultural package” of Irish literature, history, music and the Irish language could be promoted among those who feel a special affinity towards the island of Ireland but may not have direct family connections with the country, the group heard.

Wednesday’s meeting was held as part of a series of open consultations which are being conducted across Donegal, Cork, Mayo, Kerry and Dublin to inform the Government’s new diaspora policy which was announced as part of the Global Ireland 2025 Initiative. The new strategy will focus on how best to support Irish people overseas and is set to be published in early 2020.

Passion for the GAA

Introducing the event, Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon said the national consultation process would play an important role in figuring out how to support Irish people abroad. Mr Cannon highlighted the activities of the GAA as particularly important in promoting and supporting Irishness among the diaspora, noting that many emigrants had “little or no interest in the GAA” before leaving Ireland, but then suddenly “develop a significant passion for GAA when they find themselves in Doha or Dubai or China or Bangkok”. Involvement in the GAA becomes a “vital part of their interaction” with the Irish community, he said.

Participants in the Dublin consultation agreed that the GAA held an important role in communicating with the diaspora and had, in effect, become the new 21st century support network for Irish overseas, replacing the position once held by the Catholic Church.

Mr Cannon also highlighted the referendum which is set to be held on October this year to amend the constitution to extend the voting rights for presidential elections to the 3.6 million Irish citizens living outside Ireland.

More than 70 million people worldwide are estimated to be part of the Irish Diaspora which other diaspora groups, such as “affinity” and “return” are also considered “influential advocates for Ireland internationally”.