July marks the eleven month mark of Moving2Ireland. In that time we have worked closely with returning Irish emigrants from across the world, as well as the relevant government ministers and policy stakeholders, to make it easier for those wishing to return home to do so. While there has been some progress made the reality is that it hasn’t all been plain sailing and more needs to be done.
The Global Ireland: Ireland’s Global Footprint to 2025 policy framework has the potential to be a game-changer for returning Irish emigrants, but that potential can only be realised if the government approaches its relationship with Irish emigrants thinking of returning home in a way that actually deals with their real concerns in an open, holistic, and intelligent manner.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) states that the new global diaspora policy will ask the following questions in an effort to create the most inclusive diaspora policy possible:
“How do we continue to connect with people who feel a connection to Ireland? How can we support and strengthen the connections with established Irish communities abroad? How are Irish communities changing? How will they want to connect with us? Who are the people that we want to connect with and how do we maintain our relevance to them?”
These are important questions, and I was pleased to see that Minister Cannon and the DFA held a number of consultations around Ireland and the UK in recent months to better answer these queries.
However, one question that needs to be asked is not being asked: What do we do to bring Irish citizens who left, with little choice, during the Celtic Tiger crash, home? A huge proportion of our diaspora didn’t plan to leave Ireland at all and would much prefer to be at home instead of being asked about how they can build their connection with Ireland from afar. These people would prefer to see real action in terms of initiatives to make it easier for them to return home as opposed to platitudes about Ireland’s rich heritage around the world. This is the big question for me, and more needs to be done by this government, as well as future ones, to answer it.
Earlier this year, I stood up in a room in Vancouver during a community event to mark the Minister for the Diaspora’s visit to the city for St Patrick’s Day. At this meeting I suggested that the first step in building a relationship with our global diaspora is mending the relationship with the hundreds of thousands of people who left in the last decade. They have the closest ties to Ireland, but also feel most let down by our country. More needs to be done to reach out to these individuals and families.
In the end, this consultation process will count for very little if the findings fail to pay particular attention to the concerns of Irish emigrants who are at the coalface of many of the obstacles that currently exist to returning home.