A group examining public spending in the light of the crisis in the Irish economy has recommended a number of cuts that would affect services to the Irish abroad. The group, popularly known as “An Bord Snip”, released its report yesterday.
The report recommends cuts in emigrant services of one million euro. The Department of Foreign Affairs spent €15 million in 2008 on services to the Irish abroad. Of this, about ten million went to Britain, 3.5 million to the US,163,000 to Australia, 146,000 to Canada, and small sums to South Africa, Argentina, Zimbabwe and China. The government spent 1 million on Irish groups providing information to intending and returning emigrants, as well as other services of use to the Irish abroad.
Additionally, it says the scheme providing free passports to those over 65 should be eliminated. This would save €4.6 million.
The report also recommends cutting the number of embassies and consulates around the world from 76 to 55. It says embassies in lower priority countries should be sold and moved to leased property. Staff assigned abroad should have their tax-fee Foreign Service Allowance reduced by 12.5%, which would save a million euro. Ambassador posts salaries would also be downgraded.
It is likely that in a time of rising emigration, these proposed cuts would make providing services to an increasing number of Irish abroad more difficult.
Related web pages:
- Report of the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes
- RTE.ie: Summary of recommended cuts to Foreign Affairs
- Irish Independent: Pensioners hit if free passport scheme gets axe
- EuropeanIrish.com: Recommendations to cut support for Irish emigrants
- 2008 Emigrant Services Grants
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has appointed Ireland’s first Passport Appeals Officer. The office was established by the Passports Act 2008, which gave those who had been refused a passport or had their passports cancelled the right to appeal.
The appointee is a former officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Hugh Swift. He has served in Irish embassies in three continents in his forty-year career. His appointment will last for a three-year period.
Read the press release on the Department of Foreign Affairs website.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is working to ensure Irish citizens in Gaza can depart safely from the bombarded region.
The Irish Times is reporting that as many as 40 people with Irish connections are in the territory, and the Irish embassy has been working to secure exits for a number of these. Among them is an Irish-born child and his family; five-year-old Basil Nateel moved to Gaza with his Palestinian mother and his three sisters in 2007.
The newspaper reports that a DFA spokesperson said:
“There are a number of Irish citizens and individuals with Irish connections in Gaza at the moment and all are being provided with consular assistance through our embassy in Tel Aviv. They are in constant contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and an exit plan is in place to allow them to leave Gaza when it is safe to do so.
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:
- Press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs
- Travel Registration page on the DFA website
- Consular Services Charter on the DFA website
- PDF download of Travel Safely – Slan Abhaile
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin has announced another round of funding for Irish community projects in the US, bringing the 2008 total for Emigrant Support funding to over $5 million.
The $2 million in funding announced this week will cover several capital projects:
- JFK Presidential Library and Museum, Boston ($1,000,000)
- San Francisco GAA Facilities ($500,000)
- Chicago Gaelic Park ($250,000)
- Rockland County GAA ($200,000)
- Irish Americans in Government, New York ($20,000)
Several emigrant services project are also getting funding:
- New York Irish Centre ($80,000)
- Ancient Order of Hibernians ($20,000)
- Aisling Irish Centre, New York ($20,000)
- Senior Helpline Project, New York ($15,000)
In announcing the funding, Minister Martin said,
“I am announcing grants for three major Irish community development projects in San Francisco, Chicago and New York. Earlier this year, I announced funding for another major Irish community development project in Boston. Each of these projects marks a new and exciting phase in the development of the large Irish communities in these cities. The involvement of the GAA in each of the projects is pivotal given that the organisation is a key focal point for our people in the US, and it is to be praised for its work within those communities.”
“These investments are a strong indication of the enormous value the Government places on supporting our people in the United States and of our firm commitment to building even closer ties with the Irish American community. It is a community to which we in Ireland have on many occasions over the years turned to for advice and practical assistance. It is also a partnership which will secure the long term future of the Irish community in America”
“I know from my own visits to the United States how committed our communities are to maintaining their own distinctive culture and tradition and their links with Ireland. I believe that there is an onus on us to assist them in their efforts. This investment represents a win- win for Ireland and our community in the US. “
“I also know how it is so important that the Irish in America have a focal point where they can meet, particularly for our older people who can so easily become isolated as their social networks splinter and sometimes disappear altogether. These are the very people who over the years would have sent substantial amounts in financial remittances back to Ireland and it is important that their contribution not be forgotten.”
An interesting example of Irish leadership in diaspora thinking took place in New York recently, when Niall Burgess, the Ambassador and Consul General of Ireland to the USA, spoke at the Jamaican consulate on the Irish-American experience. The event was the first in a series of conversations with business and community leaders “aimed at inspiring critical thinking about the development of the Jamaican Diaspora Movement”.
Ambassador Burgess spoke along with Moet Hennessy Chief Operating Officer Jim Clerkin in the event, titled “From immigrant community to Diaspora movement, the Irish Americans: a case study”.
The event is one of a series of events hosted by the Jamaican Consul General in collaboration with the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board/NE USA and the Organisation for International Development. The next event in the series will focus on the Indian experience.
And on a related note, Ireland’s experience is helping to inform Pittsburgh’s attempts to keep in touch with its own exiles. The rust belt city has faced outward migration in recent years, and possesses an ‘emigrant community’ of loyal former residents.
See this blog entry by geographer and social theorist Jim Russell at the Pittsburgh Quarterly : it references David McWilliams’s diaspora ideas and the Donegal Diaspora Network.
Russell has set up an extremely informative website called “Cleveburgh Diaspora” about the Cleveland-Pittsburgh Diaspora. There is much of worth here about topics such as brain drain, attracting returnees, and encouraging investment from area natives living away.« Previous Entries