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    Emigrant chaplains featured on TG4

    Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

    A four-part documentary is telling the stories of emigrant chaplains in Britain and the US. Séiplinigh na nImirceach, being aired on TG4 throughout May, tells the story of four members of the Emigrant Chaplaincy Scheme, which was set up in 1957 to serve emigrants in the US and Britain.

    One of those interviewed is Ean board member Sr Attracta Heneghan, who worked with the Irish in Huddersfield. Also featured is Fr Michael Leonard, who works in Chicago.

    See the information at the bottom to watch the programmes online.

    The filmmakers say:

    As Chaplains they were there to provide pastoral care to the emigrants but more often found themselves much more deeply involved in the lives of the emigrants than they could possibly have imagined. For many emigrants the Chaplain was seen as a first port of call, to sort accommodation, and employment and to deal with the difficulties many young Irish found themselves in in a strange land. In recent years, we have become very aware of our ‘Diaspora’ and their role in the development of today’s Ireland. In this series, the Chaplains have the opportunity to tell their own side of the emigration story. We also hear from the emigrants themselves, those who have stayed abroad and those who returned.

    The programme also looks at parallels with new immigrant communities in Ireland.

    The programme airs on Sunday nights at 9:30 throughout May. Here are the outlines for the individual programmes:

    Programme 1 An taithí I Londain Sunday May 4th
    Fr Tom Looney is currently Parish Priest of the Gaeltacht community of Dingle. As a young priest he was sent to London to work as an Emigrant Chaplain. Through his experiences we introduce the work of the Emigrant Chaplains and the importance of their role. We also draw parallels between his work London with Irish emigrants and the contemporary situation in Dingle for the new immigrant communities.

    Programme 2 An taithí i Huddersfield – Sunday May 11th

    The second programme in our series looks at the particular experiences of those who emigrated to Huddersfield in the North of England. Huddersfield always had a particular draw for emigrants from Connemara, and in recent years, Sr Attracta Heneghan worked with the older Irish emigrants who have settled there. Now back in Ireland, Attracta meets with Sr Marilyn, a Nigerian Nun who has come to Ireland to provide pastoral support for African immigrants who are settling here.

    Programme 3 An taithí i Sasana – Sunday May 18th

    Fr Gearoid Ó Griofa reflects on his work as an emigrant chaplain with particular responsibility for emigrants in London from Gaeltacht areas in the 1980’s. We examine how today’s chaplains in London are working with the elderly and often lonely Irish emigrants, the same generation which the original chaplains were sent to help 50 years ago. In his current role as PP in the suburbs of Galway Ó Griofa also comments on challenge of multicultural Ireland with examples of cooperation with local NGOs and foreign chaplains.

    Programme 4 An taithí i Chicago – Sunday May 25th

    Our fourth programme follows Fr Michael Leonard on his rounds in Chicago – a particularly Irish city. His brief is to work with newly arrived and undocumented Irish, but the old established Irish community (and their children) still welcome the connection with the Irish priest. We feature contributions from the older Irish-American community who had to leave Ireland and the newer generation who are in USA by choice.

    Watch the programmes online! They are subtitled, in case your Irish is rusty. Here is how to find them:

    1. Go to
    2. On the left, click on “Cláir Eile – Cartlann”
    3. Scroll down until you see each of the four episodes of “Séiplinigh na nImirceach”.

    CIIC responds to Taoiseach’s comments on US reform

    Monday, March 31st, 2008

     Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers in the United States has joined other US-based immigrant groups in criticising Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s recent comments about US immigration reform. The organisation is calling for the Irish government to continue its efforts to secure reform measures to benefit the undocumented Irish, who are reported to number between 20,000 to 50,000 among the twelve million undocumented in the US.

    The press statement in full:

    The Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers joined others in expressing frustration that there is no resolution in sight for undocumented immigrants in the US.  The failure of comprehensive immigration reform last year and the rancorous debate that continues on this issue has left the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish immigrants more vulnerable that ever. The disappointment in Irish communities across the US is palpable after hearing the Taoiseach’s comments that indicate that the Irish Government has given up on any hope of reform that will benefit this segment of the Diaspora.

    The stereotype of committed Irish advocates as “sitting in bars and talking nonsense” is particularly offensive to all of us who have worked for years to improve the situation of Irish immigrants across the USA. Irish Centers provide a range of professional services to immigrants including immigration, employment, housing, and counseling. We are skilled professionals working hard to effect positive change and to dispel this characterization that has long plagued the Irish community at home and abroad.

    It is important to acknowledge the difficulty and complexity of the situation faced by immigrants who have lived here for many years. They left Ireland before the “Celtic Tiger”; they established themselves and built a life here. The option to uproot themselves and their families and return to Ireland is not realistic. Those who stay in the US are condemned to a life in the shadows, with few rights, as members of an underclass of 12 million undocumented immigrants. Those who go home, as the Taoiseach suggested, will set off a ten year bar which will affect them if they attempt to re-enter to visit family or to apply for any future legalization scheme.  Immigration centers are working to make sure that the undocumented immigrants understand their rights and responsibilities and to ensure that everyone is aware of the consequences of their choices.

    We cannot lose sight of the real problem, that the existing immigration system is broken. The Irish Government’s efforts to date to fashion a solution to this problem are much appreciated. The Coalition urges them to continue to work with groups in the US and to stand beside her citizens here to find a solution that is sensible and reasonable. The problem will not go away. Recent evidence from Irish centers indicates the opposite is true. New arrivals from Ireland are once again choosing the traditional path west to the USA. The last thing that we want to see is new generations of young undocumented immigrants joining those who came in the 1990’s.

    Last year the Irish community across the US united in their thousands under the banner of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. In spite of a massive effort comprehensive immigration reform legislation did not pass. The CIIC encourages everyone to continue be outraged at the treatment of our fellow citizens and to work together against the injustice of the current system. We urge the Irish Government to put their shoulder to the wheel and stay the negotiating table until we get a resolution that will allow undocumented immigrants and their families to live here without fear.

    Visit the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers’ website.

    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).

    NY Times speculates on Irish return to city

    Monday, February 11th, 2008

    The Irish may be coming back to the New York neighborhood of Woodlawn, suggests an article in the New York Times. In an article entitled, rather tweely, “Return Trip on the Shamrock Express”, journalist James Angelos suggests that the trend of return migration back to Ireland, driven by the Irish boom and the post-9/11 crackdown on the undocumented, may be reversing. The article cites the recent Irish Voice article that suggested agencies working with Irish immigrants are busier with new arrivals in recent weeks.

    The journalist quotes Siobhán Dennehy, executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center of New York, who says she has noticed more new immigrants coming in making inquiries about housing and jobs. She says that many of them would be former New York residents who have returned to the city after a stay back home, finding Ireland’s housing expensive and the job scene slowing.

    Not everyone agrees with the notion that the Irish are returning, however: One waitress says that if more Irish are arriving, she hasn’t seen them.

    The article concludes with a quote from one new arrival, a visa holder from Northern Ireland who arrived in September. He says he came over when the slowdown in the construction industry hit him. He claimed more emigrants would be coming back to New York “because there is no work left in Ireland?.

    That sentiment, of course, seems to be overstating the case. The current unemployment rate in Ireland, while higher than in recent years, still stands at a very low 4.8%. Recent census figures, however, do point to a rise in emigration last year, probably fuelled at least in part by an increase in return migration among Eastern Europeans. In addition, male migration to Ireland has slowed, possibly due to a decrease in the number of jobs available in construction.

    Read the whole article on the New York Times site.

    Irishman’s death related to his undocumented status?

    Friday, February 1st, 2008

    A Boston journalist has written a moving tribute to an undocumented immigrant who died in the US city at the age of 33.

    Kevin Cullen says, “Eddie Treacy lived in the shadows and died in his bed, the covers pulled up, his lungs full of fluid.” The Athenry native had arrived in Dorchester eight years ago. He was a talented carpenter who loved hurling and would spend after-work time at the Eire Pub.

    Cullen writes:

    We will never know if it was stubborn pride or a fear of being deported that kept him from going to a hospital to treat the pneumonia that killed him. Maybe he just didn’t realize how sick he was.

     After the funeral, he says,

    about 200 people posed on the front steps of the church for a photo to send back to Eddie’s mother, Ann, so she would know that Eddie mattered here.

    Cullen concludes:

    On Monday night, as President Bush told the nation that we need to find “a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally,” Eddie Treacy’s body was in the cargo hold of Aer Lingus Flight 132, somewhere over the Atlantic, heading home.

    The article was also published in the Irish Times.

    Read the entire article on the Boston Globe website.

    New influx into US, say centres

    Thursday, January 31st, 2008

    Irish immigration centres in the US are reporting that there has been an increase in new arrivals from Ireland, according to a report in last week’s Irish Voice newspaper. The paper interviewed Irish centres in Boston, New York, and San Francisco, and all have reported a rise in the number of recently arrived people seeking their services.

    Orla Kelleher of the Aisling Centre called the increase in numbers “a huge turnaround”. The new arrivals tend to be in their early to mid-twenties, and men and women are coming in equal numbers. Most of them are from the north, northwest and west of Ireland. Most of them are arriving with at least one friend, and sometimes in groups.

    Kelleher says most of the women have degrees and are looking for work in hospitality, and most of the men are in trades and looking for construction work. She notes, worryingly, that few are worried about the consequences of overstaying their three-month legal stay.

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