Minister for the Diaspora Joe McHugh, T.D.
Cibé áit a bhfuil tú ar fud an domhain, tá súil agam go mbainfidh tú taitnimh as an ghrian tsamhraidh agus ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leat as seo a léamh an athsheoladh ‘Nuachtlitir na Éireannaigh an Domhain.’
Just over one year ago I was appointed as Minister for the Diaspora and International Development by the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny. In the year that has passed much has changed; I have learned a huge amount in what is no longer my ‘new’ role, Ireland will shortly have a new Taoiseach in Leo Varadkar, and the international landscape has become more challenging – both for Ireland as a country and for Irish communities around the world.
While I have witnessed many developments over the year, the most positive that I have seen has been with Irish communities around the world. From San Francisco, where I met Fr Brendan McBride of the Irish Pastoral Centre engaged in a lifetime of work, to Manchester where I met representatives who are leading the Irish community’s response to the horrendous terrorist attacks, I have seen the strength and the positivity of Irish people and Irish communities everywhere.
Likewise the power and potential of local diaspora has been something that I have seen increase over the last year and several communities in Ireland are developing news ways of reaching out to their diaspora. In Boston at the Golden Bridges Conference I met many Donegal people who are at the forefront of developing even greater cultural, economic and personal ties with the Irish in America.
These ties are helping jobs growth and economic diversification and are fueling new waves of Irish culture andartistry.
I, like many other Irish people at home and abroad, id not have the full picture of the breadth and depth of support that Irish communities provide and through my role as a Minister I have been privileged to be able to see this and to work with the Irish abroad to ensure that it continues.
At the heart of these communities and this support are the organisations that we fund through the Emigrant Support Programme. I have mentioned only a few in this article but in the many I have visited I have seen that they are staffed by professionals and volunteers who provide hugely important support services. Over this last year it has been my goal to promote this amazing work to the wider world and to Irish communities at home and abroad. This work will continue in the year ahead and we will also seek to promote inter-connectedness among Irish diaspora organisations as I believe there is much learning and experience that can be shared.
The Global Irish Civic Forum in May was a highlight of the year and was a unique opportunity to bring together so many leaders and supporters of Irish communities from around the world. Much of my work as Minister for the Diaspora was encapsulated by the Forum’s theme “Communities, Connections, Conversations,” which was on full show as over 220 people, representing over 150 organisations, attended the two day event. I was struck by the high level of engagement from everyone who attended and all the videos from the Civic Forum can attest to that. These videos and all the other Civic Forum materials, including the Global Irish Communication Handbook, are available here on the recently upgraded Global Irish Hub. In addition to this, the official report form the Forum will be available online in the coming weeks.
At the Forum I reconfirmed Ireland’s commitment to the diaspora; whether it be through direct financial supports for welfare services, through extending voting rights to citizens outside the State, or through advocating for Irish citizens in US and Britain. I know that this work and focus will only deepen in the year ahead and while we are facing a number of challenges, there remain many more opportunities which will be harnessed to support Irish people everywhere. Minister Flanagan and Minister Coveney also spoke at the Civic Forum and I would like to acknowledge their support for the Irish abroad across a range of issues, including on voting rights.
Issues related to the undocumented Irish in America in particular have come to the fore in the last year. Over several visits to America over the last year I have spoken with organisations which support the undocumented Irish, and indeed I have met and spoken with individuals who find themselves in a very difficult position. In March with the Taoiseach, I raised the Irish Government’s concerns with the US Administration and following up in May, ahead of the Civic Forum, I also convened a special panel discussion on the undocumented Irish. For the first time in Ireland this event brought together family groups, the Irish Embassy in Washington, policy experts and politicians from across the political spectrum.
Over the last year I have also sought to increase our supports and work with citizens returning to Ireland. With valuable experience gained overseas these emigrants can be of a real benefit to the communities they return to, and to Irish society overall. To support returning Irish emigrants who wish to set up businesses in Ireland I launched a programme with funding of up to €100,000 from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Along with my colleagues in Government, we are listening to concerns being expressed about the particular issues being faced by people who are moving back to Ireland. Our new mentoring initiative will work to assist emigrants who have returned, or plan to return, to live and work in Ireland to foster and support entrepreneurial activity cross the country.
This is part of my work to support citizens who are returning to Ireland, and like my work supporting Irish communities overseas, I want to see how we can evolve our supports in smart and sustainable ways so that we can help as many people as possible over the year ahead. The Inter-Departmental Committee on the Irish Abroad, which I chair, remains an important mechanism for addressing issues with the relevant Departments to achieve progress and I will continue to convene it to highlight and address concerns being raised.
Opening the newly re-developed McGovern Park in Ruislip, London
Launching the funding round for the 2017 GAA Global Games Development
This newsletter is part of this progress and it will be re-launched next month with new software and with a new focus. I hope you will continue to subscribe over the year ahead and I would like you thank you again for reading the Global Irish Newsletter.
Is mise le meas,
Joe McHugh T.D.
Minister for the Diaspora and International Development