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    State checking on pensioners abroad

    Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

    The Department of Social and Family Affairs is contacting 8,000 pensioners abroad to ensure they are still alive, the Irish Times reports today.

    There are 35,000 people living outside of Ireland who receive the contributory pension, according to the paper; the contributory pension is made to eligible people 66 or over who have paid social insurance PSRI contributions. The pension amounts to €223 per week, with more if the recipient has an adult dependent.

    There are a total of 237,000 recipients of this pension, with 14% of them living abroad. Most of those recipients abroad live in the UK, the US, and Canada. As these countries do not automatically alert Irish authorities when an Irish citizen dies, the Department is concerned that welfare payments may be made to people who have died. Officials are contacting 8,000 recipients they feel may have passed away or who no longer have an adult dependent.

    One thousand circulars were distributed last month, for the first phase of the “life certification project”. If there is no response within a period of time, the payments will be stopped; they will be reinstated, however, if someone is taken off the list but is still alive.

    Read the full story (registration required).

    Free travel a no-go, says Minister

    Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

    Extending free public transport to elderly emigrant visitors to Ireland is not currently possible, according to Social and Family Affairs Minister Martin Cullen. The Irish Independent has reported that the Minister said that despite a Government pledge to work toward free travel for emigrant pensioners, the minister said:

    “Legal advice indicates that it would not be possible to extend entitlement to free travel to Irish-born people living abroad, as to do so would be contrary to European legislation, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality”.

    Labour Party chief whip Emmet Stagg, however, says the Government is actually opposing a complaint made to the European committee on Social Rights, investigating whether the current denial of free travel breaches the EU’s social charter. “The Government have fought against that tooth and nail to prevent them having to grant free travel. This flies in the face of their statements in the Dail, where they are saying the EU won’t allow them to do this”.

    See the report by Michael Brennan in the Irish Independent.

    Tradition informs work of Chicago emigrant

    Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

    A heartwarming tale about an Irish immigrant in Chicago: Paddy Homan, a 32-year-old Cork-born tenor, uses his musical talents to cheer the elderly and disabled clients he visits in his day job as a social worker.

    “We all love him”, says 91-year-old Lilly Allen in the report, by Judith Graham in a recent issue of the Chicago Tribune.

    On Mr Homan’s visits to his clients, he not only checks to make sure that they are being adequately cared for by his colleagues at Wellspring Personal Care; this director of client care services uses his talents as a tenor and bodhran player to reach out to them in a different way. His colleagues praise his work:

    “I saw right away that he had what we look for in social work — the essence of everything we do — the ability to connect,” said Sheila McMackin, president of the home care agency where Homan now works as director of client services.

    Particularly for people with dementia or mental illness, “there’s very little sharing that goes on,” said Dr. Steven Fox, Wellspring’s medical director. “All that people will hear from professionals is ‘I have a plan for you.’ Not, ‘I’d like to spend time with you and learn more about you,’ the message Paddy gives.”

    The report also carries a video, in which Mr Homan describes how his work is informed by home tradition:

    Particularly in the wintertime, not many people call to people’s houses. Where I come from back home, there was a tradition of people calling to each other’s house . Now in some small way – even though I’m in a professional capacity – I somehow see it that I’m sort of carrying on that tradition as well.


    I’ve ways been singing, and where I come from back home there’s a great tradition of singing. But there’s something – music can reach beyond any barriers that one might have. You might think you’re going into a home to say hello, you might sing a song and you’re totally going down a different route. And that’s nice.

    Read the news article on the Chicago Tribune website.

    Watch the video on the Chicago Tribune website.

    New moves on free travel for older emigrants?

    Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

    Older emigrants living in Britain may soon be getting access to free travel in Ireland, according to a report in the Irish Post. The newspaper reports that leading politicians have promised that the issue is being prioritised to be addressed when the Irish Government reconvenes after the summer holidays.

    Emigrant advocates have been campaigning on this issue for years, and while there appears to be much goodwill toward the idea among politicians, there have been difficulties in implementing a plan.  Last year, then-Minister Seamus Brennan attempted to introduce a provision that would have allowed for free travel for those abroad who were receiving an Irish pension; the EU Commission rejected the proposal as discriminatory. Currently residents of the island of Ireland are entitled to the free travel scheme once they reach 66.  

    Most campaigners want to see free travel introduced for all Irish nationals who have reached pension age. The newspaper quotes a Department for Social and Family Affairs spokesperson:

    “The Government will examine the introduction of free travel for Irish citizens of pension age, particularly those resident in Britain, when visiting Ireland and press the European Commission to examine a similar EU-wide scheme.”

     The paper notes the free travel campaign is backed by the Green Party, a coalition government party, and the opposition Labour Party.

     The issue was one of those that loomed largest at the Irish Pensioners Consultation and Conference Day recently organised by the Irish Elderly Advice Service at the London Irish Centre.

    Read the full reports on the Irish Post website:

    Tipp man to become Tube’s most familiar face

    Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

    A man who emigrated from Tipperary in 1962 will have his portrait on the cover of the London Tube map.

    John Hough left his home near Borrisokane at the age of 19, in response to an ad from London Transport. He took up work with the company and has been there ever since; he worked for five years as a bus conductor before becoming a booking clerk for the Underground. He now works a station supervisor for Wembley Park.  

     The Irish Times reports,

    “There wasn’t much going on in Ireland. I was only living on a small farm at the time; there was no way that was going to sustain me for the rest of my life. There wasn’t much on the horizon.”

    Mr Hough will retire next week and was honoured yesterday by London mayor Ken Livingstone. His 45 years of service makes him the longest-serving transport worker.

    His portrait will be printed on five million copies of the London Underground pocket Tube map; the work is part of the “Platform for Art” Project

    The Guardian quotes Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, who created the drawing with Paul Ryan:

    “Just as the tube map is a piece of portraiture of London, this works in the same way, but of a person. I was inspired by the Hockney Portraits Show at the National Portrait Gallery last year. It also has an element of social history – John came over from Ireland in the late 50s as there was no work, so it represents the movement of labour and immigration.”

    Columnist laments returnees’ plight

    Friday, June 8th, 2007

    The Irish Independent’s article on Vincent Lavery, the 71-year-old returned emigrant who has had difficulty finding a job and accessing social welfare benefits, has prompted an article by a columnist lamenting the difficulties of return.

    Martina Devlin says that she, too, is a returned emigrant, having left for college in England in the 1980s and returning in 1995. She notes that her return had its own difficulties. She says that she learned not to draw attention to her London experience:

    There was a resistance to returned emigrants sharing their expertise, informative though it was. We’re touchy on the subject. People who haven’t worked away can feel threatened by those with a broader perspective.

    She also notes that the welcome for returning emigrants does not always live up to Ireland’s reputation.

    If our emigrants are only back for a fortnight’s holiday it’s all sweetness and light and whatever you’re having yourself, but should they relocate permanently the welcome grows tarnished.

    We pay lip service to the notion of opening our arms to our emigrants, but shrug our shoulders about problems in store for anyone taking us up on our half-hearted offer.

    Ms Devlin says she has feels sorry for retired emigrants, “because the Ireland of their hearts no longer exists”.

    The mission for them is finding if they have any common ground with the version that replaced it.

    If we could shake off our tigerish tendencies, we could help them in this challenge. A country’s assets are meant to be its people – and our returned emigrants are part of that pool of wealth.

    Read the full article on the Irish Independent website.

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