Ceisteanna-Questions. Oral Answers. - Representation of Emigrants.

Jimmy Deenihan

Question:

5 Mr. Deenihan asked the Taoiseach whether, in light of the considerably high emigration figures, he is prepared to invite the Irish Episcopal Conference on Emigration to participate in the formulation of the next Programme for National Recovery.

Jim Higgins

Question:

6 Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach if he will consider inviting bodies representing emigrants to participate in the next Programme for National Recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 and 6 together.

Formulation of a further programme to succeed theProgramme for National Recovery is essentially a matter for the Government and the social partners. I am sure that any recommendations by the Irish Episcopal Conference on Emigration or by other bodies will be taken into account by all concerned in formulating a new programme.

While emigration is, on the basis of the latest information, falling as a result of the success of the existing programme it is still unacceptably high and its reduction must be a key objective in any new programme.

Given that over 300,000 of our young people have emigrated since 1983 and the warning by the NESC in their report that even if our economy improves it will still take some time before the factors incurred in emigration disappear, does the Taoiseach not agree that there should be a legitimate voice for this large section of our population in the formulation of the next programme for national recovery? We cannot ignore the views of such a large percentage of Irish people even if they have left the country.

Naturally, every section of the community who would wish to do so must be entitled to have an input into the discussions through some form or other. There are various ways in which groups, individuals and organisations can input into the discussions and negotiations on the formulation of a new programme but the actual structuring of the negotiations has to conform to the standard.

I am sure the Taoiseach would agree that this is a greater sector than any represented around the table. Our emigrants are not directly represented in the last programme, and they should be represented in the next.

The Deputy has made that point. I am calling Deputy J. Higgins.

Appropos what Deputy Deenihan said, would the Taoiseach not acknowledge that the figures speak for themselves? We have, after all, 50,000 teachers between primary, post-primary and third level and they are at the conference table; we have 121,000 full-time farmers who are very much at the conference table; we have 57,000 employers who are at the conference table. As Deputy Deenihan rightly says, since 1983 over 300,000 people, or in the past ten years over 500,000 people, have fled this island and have a legitimate aspiration to come back and, in some cases, would bring back much expertise and finance. It might be well worth while, before the final components are put together, to look at the possibility of having them at the table by right.

I do not think that is a practical proposal. The whole purpose of the first programme and of the second programme is to bring emigration to an end, to create employment opportunities at home and to create a situation here where emigrants will be enabled to return and find employment and even, as the Deputy says, return with new skills. That is the whole purpose of the exercise. As I said, the first programme has succeeded to some extent in achieving both those objectives. The purpose of the second programme is to accentuate and accelerate that process. We must, however, have structured discussions. The original format was a success. I cannot see how anybody who wishes to have an input into the discussions will not find some way of doing it. In fact, I will look at it to see if there is any way in which the mechanisms could be improved to make sure that every individual or group who wish to have an input into the discussions can do so.