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  • Irish Abroad Unit

    Government to help Irish in Barbados?

    Friday, January 29th, 2010

    Will the Irish government come to the assistance of the so-called “Red Legs”, the descendents of Irish (as well as English and Scottish) people transported 400 years ago to Barbados to act as slaves? As many as 50,000 Irish people were transported to Barbados as slaves and indentured servants during Cromwell’s time; the community that survives numbers about 400, and suffers from poverty and ill health.

    Their plight was the focus of a written question in the Dail, which has appeared on KildareStreet.com. The Q and A is below. In it, Minister Martin notes that Irish Abroad Unit officials have met with representatives of the community, and expresses and openness to funding projects as part of the normal emigrant support funding round.

    This kind of outreach is yet another sign of the Irish government’s innovative commitment to strengthening and developing its relationship with the Irish diaspora. How many countries are working to re-establish relationships like this one between Ireland and this small community, which was  so cruelly severed four centuries ago?

    Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
    Question 674: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has assisted the Redleg people of Irish slave decent in Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada and other Caribbean states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1475/10]
    Micheál Martin (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
    The Irish Abroad Unit within my Department maintains a keen interest in all aspects of the Irish experience of emigration, both forced and voluntary, and has active programmes aimed at strengthening our links with Irish communities overseas; including in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, Europe and Asia.
    While we have no active programme in the Caribbean at present, officials from the Irish Abroad Unit have held a number of exploratory meetings since 2008 with representatives of the descendents of those Irish people who were deported by Oliver Cromwell to Barbados in the 17th Century. During these discussions, the group were encouraged to maintain contact with the Government and to reflect further on the most appropriate way to recognise this unique community within the Irish Diaspora.
    Representatives of the community are welcome to submit an application for funding under the Emigrant Support Programme when the 2010 grant round is launched in March by my Department.

    Leo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)

    Question 674: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has assisted the Redleg people of Irish slave decent in Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada and other Caribbean states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1475/10]

    Micheál Martin (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)

    The Irish Abroad Unit within my Department maintains a keen interest in all aspects of the Irish experience of emigration, both forced and voluntary, and has active programmes aimed at strengthening our links with Irish communities overseas; including in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, Europe and Asia.

    While we have no active programme in the Caribbean at present, officials from the Irish Abroad Unit have held a number of exploratory meetings since 2008 with representatives of the descendents of those Irish people who were deported by Oliver Cromwell to Barbados in the 17th Century. During these discussions, the group were encouraged to maintain contact with the Government and to reflect further on the most appropriate way to recognise this unique community within the Irish Diaspora.

    Representatives of the community are welcome to submit an application for funding under the Emigrant Support Programme when the 2010 grant round is launched in March by my Department.

    It was, presumably, a recent TG4 programme  that highlighted the plight of this deprived outpost of the Irish diaspora and prompted Mr Varadkar’s question. The Irish Times also has a great article on this community.

    Related websites:

    Former head of Task Force on Emigrants dies

    Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

    Paddy O’Hanlon, who headed the task force on policies regarding emigrants, has died at 65 following a short illness.

    Paddy O’Hanlon became one of the founding members of the SDLP after being elected to Stormont in 1969; he left politics in the 1980s to become a barrister. O’Hanlon was appointed in 2001 to head the emigrant task force by then-MInister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen.

    The task force was highly influential in prompting a new relationship between Ireland and the Irish abroad. Subsequent actions by the government included the establishment of the Irish Abroad Unit and increased spending on emigrant welfare.

    For more information:

    Minister Martin highlights services for citizens abroad

    Thursday, January 8th, 2009

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin has highlighted the value of several services provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs to its citizens abroad. In a recent statement on those services, the Minister noted that Irish residents made 8 million trips overseas. He spoke of the assistance offered by the Department, which provides services to those in crisis situations, including national emergencies and bereavements.

    He encouraged citizens living abroad to register with the travel registration service that was launched last year. He noted the utility of this service during the recent protests in Bangkok:

    Most of the Irish citizens stranded in Bangkok were passing through, many of their way to or from Australia. These were scattered throughout the city and surrounding areas. Under the old system, it would have involved a major bureaucratic exercise to contact and register them all. With the new on-line registration system in place, almost 400 Irish citizens in the Thai capital were able to provide their own contact information, enabling the Department to stay in close contact with them throughout the crisis. Many of the young Irish registered with the Department using internet cafes in Bangkok. It involved the use of simple technology but had a huge effect and enabled the Department to stay in touch with Irish citizens on a large scale. If an evacuation of Irish citizens was required, the data base provided by the system of voluntary on line registration would have been invaluable.

    Minister Martin also urged citizens to take out comprehensive medical and travel cover to avoid any kind of burden as they travel abroad. He called attention to the booklet “Travel Safely – Slán Abaile”, produced by the DFA last year, as a useful resource for ensuring a safe visit overseas.

    The DFA dealt with around 200 deaths abroad in 2008 – a 33% increase on the 150 reported in 2007.

    See related websites:

    Gov awards $1.5 million to US groups

    Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

    The Department of Foreign Affairs has announced its funding for sixteen emigrant service organisations in the US, totalling $1.5 million (1.03 million euro).

    Since the establishment of the Irish Abroad Unit in 2004, the Department of Foreign Affairs has allocated more than USD8 million to the Irish Community Centres and Organisations in the United States.

    The funding is as follows, divided by consular area.

    New York 771,000
    - Aisling Irish Centre 126,000
    - Emerald Isle Immigration Centre 196,000
    - New York Irish Centre 130,000
    - Project Irish Outreach 112,000
    - Irish Immigration and Pastoral Centre/Immigrant Support Services, Philadelphia 132,000
    - Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform 50,000
    - Commodore Barry 25,000

    Washington DC 166,000
    - Ocean City Irish Student Outreach 1,000
    - Irish Apostolate 22,000
    - Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers 68,000

    Boston 372,000
    - Irish Immigration Center, Boston 200,00
    - Irish Pastoral Centre, Boston 172,000

    San Francisco 159,500
    - Irish Immigration and Pastoral Centre (IIPC), San Francisco 130,000
    - Seattle Irish Immigration Support Group (SIISG) 2,500
    - Irish Outreach San Diego 27,000

    Chicago 125,000
    - Irish Immigrant Support, Chicago 110,00015,000

    Total 1,518,500

    Visit the Department of Foreign Affair’s Irish Abroad Unit.

    DFA launches charter, registration facility

    Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

    The Department of Foreign Affairs has launched two new services on its website, aimed at those travelling or resident overseas. The two services are:

    • a Consular Services Charter for citizens, called “Travel Safely, Slán Abhaile” – a document setting out the range of services provided by embassies and consulates abroad, as well as advice on steps to take before travelling abroad.
    • an online travel registration facility for Irish people resident or travelling abroad – aimed particularly at those travelling to remote or dangerous locations, and at improving the DFA’s capacity to locate Irish citizens caught in a major crisis or family emergency.

    In launching the services, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said,

    As people travel more frequently, the demand for our Consular services has increased….This new service will significantly improve our capacity to locate and connect with Irish citizens caught up in a crisis and to get assistance to them. It also will improve our ability to provide timely and accurate information to their relatives in Ireland.

    He added that the DFA’s approach to consular assistance

    is interventionist and places the welfare of Irish citizens in need at its core. Officers of the Department at home and abroad repeatedly display a willingness to go the extra mile and deliver on that commitment. I know from my own direct dealings with people in difficulty and their families that this is greatly appreciated. Last year alone, the Department of Foreign Affairs provided direct assistance in over 130 cases of deaths abroad.

    Irish people made nearly eight million trips abroad last year. ‘Travel Safely, Slán Abhaile’ will be distributed widely through public libraries, schools, universities and colleges, travel agents, citizen information centres and at missions abroad.

    See the press release for more information.

    See the Travel Registration page on the DFA website.

    See the Consular Services Charter on the DFA website.

    Irish Abroad Unit outlines its work

    Monday, January 29th, 2007

    The Irish Abroad Unit updated the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs about their work and the current status of Irish emigrants earlier this month. Their update focused on the achievements of 2006 and their plans for 2007.

    Ray Bassett of the Unit spoke of the possibility that immigration reform could be passed by the US Congress in September or October, but warned of the importance of caution in these matters. He paid tribute to the work of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, and said that the Irish presence has been helpful as part of the wider campaign for immigration reform aimed at the wider group of undocumented immigrants in the US.

    Mr Bassett also spoke of the improvements in the status of Irish emigrants in Britain with €40 million spent since 1984, 80% of that since 2000. The Simon Community credits increased funding for the fall in the number of Irish homeless from 600 to 100 since 1999.

    He spoke of establishing good links with the GAA, referring to its ability to bring community together as “sport plus social inclusion?. He also spoke of how the Unit has extended funding to Australia, Canada and Argentina, as well as South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Unit has been given €15.1 million for funding next year, an increase of €3 million.

    During the question period, Mr Bassett responded to the issue of free travel and broadcasting to emigrants by saying:

    On issues such as RTE, free travel, etc., the Government is in favour. It is a question of how we proceed from here. We have extended the centenarian’s bounty outside the State for those who reach 100 years of age. It will take imaginative thinking to get around some of the obstacles, but we are committed to work with the relevant Departments to assist these people. There is a political and administrative will to do it, but we need the mechanisms to get there.

    The update sparked a wide-ranging discussion on the status of the Irish around the world. Senators raised such issues as the special problems of Argentinians who feel a very strong link with Ireland and who would like to get citizenship, but who are too many generations removed under the current system. Senator David Norris spoke of a letter he had received from a young Irish man living in Paris who felt rejected by Ireland because he could not vote here. Senator Paschal Mooney raised the issue of differences between the professional Irish of the more recent generation of emigrants and the traditional Irish emigrants; he suggested there might be some sort of structure developed that would encourage the professional Irish to get involved with those from previous generations.

    For the full transcript, see the Oireachtas website.