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    Institutes of Tech launch programme aimed at 2nd- and 3rd-generation Irish abroad

    Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

    Well over a decade ago, I attended an event in Boston in which an Irish-born parent bemoaned the fact that he was unable to afford to send his children to college in Ireland, as they would be required to pay the full fee applicable to non-EU residents.  This was, of course, despite the fact that these children of Irish-born parents were Irish citizens themselves.  Citizenship was irrelevant in deciding college costs; residency was all. The situation seemed yet another way in which Ireland’s institutions at the time were so often indifferent to the desire of the Irish abroad to maintain connections, and to the additional advantages that could be gained by deepening relations with the second-generation Irish abroad.

    So it was with great interest that I learned of a new initiative to be launched by the Taoiseach in Washington DC tomorrow.  Led by Brian McNamara of the Waterford Institute of Technology, the “Ireland Homecoming Study Programme” will entitle mostly at second- and third-generation Irish people living in non-EU countries to study at one of eight Institutes of Technology for a discount of as much as 40% off the non-EU residency rate.

    The ITs involved in the pilot programme, which is supported by Enterprise Ireland, are Athlone, Blanchardstown, Carlow, Cork, Dundalk Galway/Mayo, Sligo, and Waterford.  Students may take undergraduate degree courses or shorter courses of study. The target is for 500 students over the next three years, with the qualification requirements is roughly the same as for citizenship eligibility.

    IHSP creator and co-ordinator Brian McNamara  said:

    “The ‘Global Irish’ can now obtain very affordable qualifications in Ireland through the IHSP. As a nation, we have long recognised the important role that the Irish Diaspora or Global Irish play in promoting Irish culture and trade. This initiative will offer a practical benefit to the off-spring of Irish people abroad by allowing their children obtain an exceptional Irish education at highly competitive rates. The programme will aim to attract over 500 students over the next three years contributing an estimated €10 million to the Irish economy?.

    Gerry Murray, Chief Executive of Institutes of Technology Ireland (IOTI), added:

    “We intend that this exciting new programme will generate a new crop of goodwill ambassadors to promote Irish commerce and culture worldwide. The eight Institutes in this pilot scheme have been carefully chosen for their academic range and excellence, research reputation, cultural and social infrastructure. It is a win-win opportunity for ambitious students and for Ireland.?

    This is an initiative which feels very much in keeping with the spirit of the recent Farmleigh Global Economic Forum; I feel like I’m sounding like a broken record these days, but I’m delighted to see these kinds of initiatives which are as much about giving back to the diaspora as they are about the diaspora’s benefits to Ireland. Win-win moves like this are much to be applauded.

    More information on and applications for participation in the IHSP for the eligible children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Irish emigrants can be accessed at www.irelandhsp.com. See also the programme’s Facebook page.

    Related pages:

    A President’s Notebook: Education and the Irish Diaspora

    Ireland Homecoming Study Programme:

    President visits Irish in England

    Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

    President Mary McAleese visited with the Irish community in Britain  over the past two days. Her visit included a tour of the 20120 Olympic site in East London, which afforded her an opportunity to talk to the Irish construction workers employed there.

    Out of the 9,000 workers on the site, 10% are Irish, according to an RTE report. The president said:

    ‘This very exciting project is proving very beneficial to Ireland on many levels, first of all, as you know, the construction industry in Ireland has come to a bit of a stand still and there are a lot of people looking for opportunities outside Ireland. Many of them have found those opportunities here, builders, surveyors, project managers, architects and anybody involved in the construction business hoping to get work here.

    ‘Evidence of the Irish contribution here is all around, the names on many of the hoardings are very very familiar, all associated with the Irish construction sector, I am very proud that 10% of the work force here is Irish. They are involved in everything from lifting the blocks to major architectural projects. That’s very good news. That’s at the construction phase, and then there is the fit out phase.

    ‘That’s a very important element for us in terms of supplying goods and services. I was talking to one contractor this morning who bringing in cladding from north of Dublin. A good example of work being generated and opportunities being generated back in Ireland thanks to the Oympic site.’

    During her visit, Ms McAleese also visited the Irish Centre in Reading. In London, she met the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas and the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, as well as the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith.

    Related websites:

    Emigrants subject to taxation on Irish homes

    Thursday, February 11th, 2010

    Irish emigrants who keep a home in Ireland are subject to the taxation on non-principal homes. The tax of €200 is levied on most houses that are not occupied by their owners, although there are a number of exemptions. The charge does apply to overseas owners.

    The fact that emigrants must pay the tax was raised in the Dail today by Frank Feighan, Fine Gael’s TD from Roscommon South-Leitrim. In a debate over the Finance Bill, he said,

    I agree the non-principal residence tax is a good idea for raising moneys for local authorities. However, having visited the Roscommon Associations in Manchester, Birmingham and London, I know many emigrants feel let down that the little house they have back in Ireland, some without even electricity or running water, will be charged this tax. They want to be good citizens but the local authorities are insisting they pay the €200 tax. That is an insult to the Irish diaspora which actually helped rebuild this country by sending money back from abroad.

    The Government must apologise to those emigrants in the United States and the United Kingdom who have tried to keep a link with this country by keeping a small house, sometimes just a pile of stones, for not considering them when introducing this tax. It must be amended because the local authorities have not considered all factors involved.

    This, clearly, is a case of taxation without representation. Is it right to levy taxes on citizens who are entitled to no representation in this State? Two centuries of post-Enlightenment thinking would say no. Is this democratic?

    Related websites:

    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:

    Tracking the emigrant voting issue

    Friday, January 29th, 2010

    The issue of votes for Irish emigrants is rising in prominence, as evidenced by the increasing number of articles appearing on the topic. Here’s what’s been said in recent weeks:

    2010: March

    February

    January

    Articles and letters to editor

    Dail mentions:

    Political groups

    2009

    European-based web articles

    The articles above seem to imply that Irish-born voters who live and work in Europe can retain their right to vote by returning to Ireland to do so. Of course,  those who are not ordinarily resident in Ireland are ineligible to vote in Ireland, unless they are in the military or the diplomatic corps.

    Charter for a New Ireland revisions Ireland as global nation

    Thursday, January 28th, 2010

    I’ve already written about Amhran Nua, the new political party that is announcing its formation with a campaign for emigrant voting rights. Another, unrelated, political movement is also underway with a related theme: to re-envision Ireland as a truly global nation – a new global Irish republic comprised of both its residents and its diaspora. The vision is being advanced by a collaborative group led by Raymond Sexton of Tangible Ireland, developing a “Charter for a New Ireland”.

    Is such a de-territorialised state possible? I don’t know.  What the charter (which I’ve copied below) reminds me of most is the “node-state” notion of Israel (which I’ve noted in the past). As with the Israeli “node-state” idea advanced by Ariel Beery, this vision decouples not only citizenship and residency (although residency and citizenship in Ireland are already relatively loosely connected),  but also as the nation from the state.

    As I said previously:

    This idea of the nation-state giving way to a node-state has implications for a country like Ireland, which says in its constitution, “the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.? With millions of Irish citizens living abroad, and with efforts to enhance the relationship between Ireland and the diaspora and Ireland on the increase, it could be argued that Ireland, too, may be moving toward a node-state (albeit, I hope, a more inclusive one than Israel’s, which excludes some in its territory from citizenship).

    Could Ireland be reconceived as a node-state including all on the island of Ireland, plus the 1.2 million Irish-born abroad, and the 70 million in the diaspora? And what would that mean in practical terms?

    This charter appears to be an attempt to say yes to the first question and provide a foundation to underpin an answer to the second. It’s an exciting idea: has the world changed enough to encompass a nation it is impossible to emigrate from, because where ever you are, there it is?

    It’s a big vision. It will be worth watching to see what comes of this.

    One of the first steps the group is taking is to explore the notion of political participation by the Irish abroad. The issue of emigrant voting rights is beginning to look like a question that isn’t going to go away.

    ____________

    Here is the statement from Tangible Ireland:

    DEVELOPING A CHARTER FOR A NEW IRELAND
    The Irish are a courageously global people.  Ireland is both the earth wire for this people and the source of great pride as it took its place among the free nations of the earth, but one small island in the Atlantic can no longer limit our dreams and aspirations.  In an era of serial crises, Ireland, beset with institutional and leadership problems, seeks a new way of moving forward.
    Combining the Irish in Ireland and the Irish Diaspora to create the Global Irish will unleash the power of a people of great art, creativity and energy.  Moving beyond one small island frees us from parochialism and allows us to enhance our contribution to the world.

    To ignore the Irish outside Ireland is an act of wanton neglect.  To view the Diaspora as a source of handouts is mutually insulting.  To create the structures that guarantee the inclusion and participation of all the Irish in the life of the nation is to create the global Irish Republic.  Once created, Irish emigration ceases; from that day, Irish people are always at home and Irish nationalism is replaced by Irish internationalism.

    All Irish-born people are entitled to citizenship.  The descendants of our emigrants together with immigrants toIreland and others with a strong affinity to Ireland should be entitled to apply for citizenship of a global IrishRepublic.  All citizens should have appropriate representation in the houses of Irish government and the opportunity to contribute to developing Ireland’s role in the world.  This global Irish Republic should be a non-ethnic, true republic in which we can all participate and take pride; it should not tolerate domination, segregation or sectarianism.

    It is now time to find and work with the willing to develop the policies, projects and structures that will breathe life into Global Irishness.  This will be the development of an active Charter for a New Ireland.  Through collaborative leadership we can create a culture of shared excellence throughout the Irish world.  We can build a truly dynamic and sustainable economy that benefits all our people and powers the social services necessary for a humane society.  No longer content with mediocrity or with the worst of the ways of the past, with passivity, deference and dependence, we will apply the full range of skills, qualities and abilities of all our people to the challenges we face.

    Our first tasks are to:

    • Describe the appropriate level and form of representation for the Irish abroad
    • Clarify our expectations of ourselves as citizens of a global Irish Republic
    • Demonstrate an Ireland of Excellence

    No man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation.  No man has the right to say to his country thus far thou shalt go and no further. We have never attempted to fix the ne plus ultra to the progress of Ireland’s nationhood, and we never shall.

    - Charles Stewart Parnell

    See more on the Tangible Ireland website.

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