According to the latest US census data, some 39 million Americans claim Irish heritage. Add to this the 150,000 Irish-born that call the US their home and the size and strength of the Irish Diaspora in the United States becomes apparent.
Strengthening connections with Irish communities abroad and promoting links with Irish people and those of Irish ancestry worldwide is one of the core goals of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and its Embassies and Consulates around the globe. Central to achieving this objective is the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme (ESP). The ESP provides financial support to Irish organisations and projects which address the needs of the Irish Diaspora around the world, with a focus on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable Irish emigrants.
Through annual grants to a wide range of organisations around the world, the Emigrant Support Programme enables Irish emigrants and Irish community organisations to access vital local services such as healthcare, education, and housing and other community-focused services such as those provided by Chicago Irish Immigrant Support.
While the support of frontline welfare services continues to be the priority of the ESP, the expansion of the programme has enabled the Government to invest in a range of cultural, community, heritage and business networking projects, which foster a vibrant sense of Irish community and identity. Residents of Cincinnati will be aware of the great work of the Irish Heritage Center of Greater Cincinnati, which runs a rich programme of cultural and community events throughout the year. Irish business people in Chicago will be familiar with the excellent programme of events run by Ireland Network Chicago, also supported by the ESP.
The Emigrant Support Programme also funds strategic capital projects, such as the substantial support given to organsations like the Irish American Heritage Center, Chicago and Chicago Gaelic Park over the years to develop their facilities for members and guests. These grants are a key part of the Government’s approach to developing strong and meaningful links with Irish communities overseas.
In 2014, the Emigrant Support Programme provided more than $2 million to 34 organisations across the United States. Organisations in the Midwest USA received some 12% of these funds. The Consulate of Ireland in Chicago is proud of the work that these funds allow organisations to carry out. Consul General Aidan Cronin: "The ESP grant allows the Consulate to provide important financial support to the excellent work being done by a wide number of community, cultural and business organisations across the Midwestern USA. I would encourage all Irish organisations to learn about the Programme and, if they feel like they might qualify, to apply for funding”, said Consul General Aidan Cronin.
The 2015/16 ESP grant round is now open and will close on 25 February 2015.