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Launch of ‘Global Irish: Ireland’s Diaspora Policy’

Irish Abroad, MoS Jimmy Deenihan, Speech, Ireland, 2015

Launch of ‘Global Irish: Ireland’s Diaspora Policy’

Remarks by Minister Deenihan

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I am delighted to join the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister Flanagan today in launching ‘Global Irish: Ireland’s Diaspora Policy’.

As Ireland’s first Minister for Diaspora Affairs, it is my job to work to ensure our connections to our global family remains central to Government policy.

The new Irish passport launched last year has a feature whereby the words of Article 2 of the Constitution run through its pages, with the statement: “the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.” I am firmly committed to ensuring that these words are implemented in every facet of Irish Government policy.

One commitment in this Policy is that I will chair a new Inter-departmental Committee on the Irish Abroad. I believe that this will be an important tool in ensuring that all Government Departments work together to support our diaspora; both abroad and if they decide to return to Ireland.

Since my appointment in July 2014 I have met with many members of the Irish diaspora in the UK, US, Australia, France, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. I have been struck by the very diverse global Irish community.

Emigration has always been a feature of the Irish experience. However the nature of that experience has changed over the years. While previous generations departed in the knowledge that they may probably never see their homes or families again, today we have other means of keeping in touch. But despite this, the challenges involved in starting life in a new country are daunting, and are faced by many Irish every year.

To help people to stay in touch with home and their heritage, we have developed a new resource for the Irish abroad, an online portal available on the Department of Foreign Affairs website (, which will provide signposts for Irish people and people of Irish descent and affinity, to information that might be helpful to them in their lives overseas or for those thinking of coming home.

Communications was a key theme running through the submissions that we received during the consultation process for this Policy and this portal, our @GlobalIrish Twitter account and a new Global Irish Newsletter, which you can sign up for on the portal, are the first steps in addressing this.

I want to acknowledge and pay tribute to the community groups, organisations, and individuals, many of whom I have met, who have worked hard to retain, encourage and promote Irish culture and heritage throughout the world - our music, dance, theatre, and our native games. I would like to pay particular tribute to the GAA whose network of clubs overseas have been an invaluable source of connection and comfort to so many of our emigrants and who have proved to be so much more than a sporting organisation.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Liam O’Neill for his work in developing the GAA overseas and look forward to continuing our partnership with the new President Aogán O’Fearghail.

I am also very mindful of the tremendous support provided from within the community to those Irish who find themselves in difficult situations, or at times of illness or bereavement. A powerful spirit of community and solidarity can be witnessed in Irish communities across the world when it is most needed.

Through Emigrant Support Programme funding the Irish Government is in a position to assist many of these groups. In 2014, almost €12 million was provided to organisations supporting Irish emigrants in making the best lives possible in their countries of residence.

Welfare will remain at the centre of the Government’s engagement with the diaspora.

As part of this Policy we will convene a Global Irish Civic Forum in Dublin, to bring together diverse organisations from around the world that are facing similar challenges, but are not yet connected to each other. This Forum will take place on 3-4 June and I look forward to engaging with the participants to discuss how better we can support the global Irish community.

While ensuring the welfare of our emigrants is the key focus of this programme, as well as assisting cultural and sporting organisations we also fund a small number of business networks. All of these groups provide a means for Irish emigrants to stay connected, and help them and their descendants to develop and maintain their Irish identity and their affinity with Ireland.

As well as connectivity, representation was a key theme running through the submissions that we received. My appointment last July goes some way towards recognising this demand.

The other element of this was voting rights for emigrants and this is a topic that has also been frequently raised with me during my engagement with Irish communities abroad in my role as Minister for Diaspora Affairs.

An extension of voting rights to Irish citizens outside the State would be welcomed by many in the diaspora. It would allow them to deepen their engagement with Ireland and to play a more active role in Irish society. It would further the wider goal of enhancing diaspora engagement. However, it would also be challenging to introduce and to manage. A range of issues would arise in this context.

The Convention on the Constitution also considered this issue and overwhelmingly recommended in their fifth report that citizens resident outside the State should have the right to vote in presidential elections.

The Government has recently considered their response to the recommendation of the constitutional convention and has decided that it is necessary to analyse the full range of practical and policy issues that would arise in any significant extension of the franchise, before any decision could be made on the holding of a referendum.

The analysis will be undertaken by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in co-operation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and myself, and we will report back to Government on the matter.

The Government recognises the importance of this issue for our diaspora and I am releasing a statement detailing the range of complex issues that require further consideration.

I would like to thank you all once again for joining us here today to launch this very important Policy document. I particularly look forward to hearing the views and perspectives of our diaspora on this policy document.

Any history of the Irish people is only half told without mentioning the waves of emigrants who left our shores over many generations. I hope that this Policy reminds our emigrants abroad of the importance the Irish Government attaches to ensuring that the connections that tie them to Ireland are nurtured, strengthened and intensified.