Irish diaspora and State support

 

Sir, – Your features highlighting hardships faced by our diaspora during the pandemic draw timely attention to our response as a State and as a people to those delivering services and support to our diaspora.

The majority of this support has come from the Irish people through the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme (€13 million annually) – and in particular, its Covid Response Fund for Irish communities abroad.

This provided over €2 million in additional support to Irish community and voluntary organisations working on the frontline. The scale and extent of our response was also evident at the start of this crisis in our operation to successfully repatriate thousands of Irish stranded across the globe.

I was therefore disappointed not to see an understanding of this unprecedented crisis response in your editorial (September 22nd), referencing the excellent report by Crosscare Migrant Project which highlights the important role Irish community organisations who stepped forward to support to so many vulnerable people.

I have had the opportunity to engage with more Irish people living and working around the globe than any Minister before me. Video conferencing has meant I could meet multiple groups on different continents in a single day, hearing their stories of Covid-19 first-hand. Their commitment to supporting one another has been truly inspiring, and although they have not been able to come home, they have never been alone.

Our engagement has been more extensive than ever. Last year we launched the “To Be Irish” programme, enabling our diaspora to celebrate Christmas together, but online. This virtual portal which showed a window into a uniquely Irish Christmas was so important for those who could not come home.

This year will hopefully be different but there are still many who face hardship and who will not be able to travel. The reopening of international travel brings renewed hope to our diaspora who have endured long and painful separations from families and friends.

As we get back to normal, I want to focus my efforts on enhancing supports for those who wish to return to Ireland to live and work, in particular, addressing and removing those barriers that exist to people returning. I also want to focus on supporting the Irish diaspora community groups who are again starting to provide services in the aftermath of Covid-19.

Until they can, we will continue to focus our Emigrant Support Programme on helping them and to ensuring that all of our communities and people abroad feel closely connected to home. – Yours, etc,

COLM BROPHY TD

Minister of State for

Overseas Development

Aid and Diaspora.