A little more than three weeks ago, on 3rd June I addressed our first ever Global Irish Civic Forum – which was attended by over 200 representatives from 17 countries. I spoke about what I perceived as a shift in the underlying relationship between Ireland and its diaspora which has moved from the individual, with stories and connections maintained at the family level, to more of a national appreciation and an international understanding of our global family as a whole unit, more linked than ever before.
That alone is a very good reason to involve the Irish diaspora in our commemorations of 1916 and it is a matter of great pride for me to see that our diaspora is afforded such prominence and such a distinctive role.
For the first time in the life of our sovereign state we have a government policy on our diaspora Global Irish. This policy recognises the importance to this country of our diaspora and the significant contribution that they have made to our evolution as a state and, to key events in our history, including the Easter Rising of 1916.
It is a policy that reflects the call of the 1916 Proclamation to cherish all of the children of the nation.
We should never forget that the 1916 Proclamation reminded us that Ireland, in the pursuit of its ideals, was ‘supported by her exiled children in America’. This is particularly true in New York and Philadelphia where John Devoy and Joe McGarrity played critical roles. Much of the valuable archives and records from this time are still held in the US.
Today we are supported by our exiled children in many other parts of the world and it is important for us to return that support – to support one another.
Global Irish, while keeping welfare at its heart seeks to address the needs of Irish people and people of Irish descent around the world. It aims to maintain the connections to Ireland and to promote connectivity between members of our diaspora creating a genuine open conversation. The policy facilitates a wide range of activity at local, national and international level.
Our diaspora is so extensive and so large that it isn’t possible to tell the story of Ireland without speaking about our diaspora. 2016 offers us an enormously important opportunity to strengthen our diaspora links all around the world.
I am delighted that the 2016 commemorative programme recognizes the central importance of our diaspora, and indeed its long history, stretching back to 1916 and far beyond.
I hope in particular to see as many people as possible return home for our “Gala Diaspora Event” in the National Concert Hall on 16th March 2016 – and that those who cannot return will participate in the event which will be beamed by satellite link to embassies and consulates around the world as a centre-piece for local commemorative events to be organised by our diaspora.
As Minister for Diaspora Affairs I am delighted to be supporting the Global and Diaspora strand of Ireland’s 2016 Commemorations programme. In addition to the Gala Event in the National Concert Hall I would also like to draw your attention to Inspiring Ireland. Inspiring Ireland is an award winning website which makes accessible, digitally, some of our most treasured cultural icons and artefacts. Through my office I have provided funding to produce a range of online exhibitions related to 1916 to allow our diaspora to connect with the history and events of the era.