Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Irish Emigrants in UK.

Jimmy Deenihan


15 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for Labour if he will make a special case to the DÍON Committee to have the increased grant made available to the Birmingham Irish Welfare and Information Centre in 1991.

John Connor


20 Mr. Connor asked the Minister for Labour if, in view of further recent reports on homelessness and other social difficulties among a high percentage of young Irish emigrants in London and other cities in the United Kingdom, he will make greater funds available to Outreach and other welfare services in Britain in 1991; and if he intends to initiate changes in the existing services or introduce new programmes.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 20 together.

Grant assistance from my Department's Vote to non-statutory organisations catering for the welfare needs of Irish emigrants to Britain is provided only on the recommendation of DÍON, the Advisory Committee on Emigrant Welfare Services.

As I indicated in this House on 20 November 1990, in response to a similar question, it has been the practice of successive Ministers for Labour not to bring ministerial pressure to bear on DÍON in arriving at its grant recommendations.

However, in accordance with standard practice I arranged to have copies of these questions and my reply forwarded to the chairperson of DÍON at the Irish Embassy in London for consideration in the context of DÍON's terms of reference and their priorities for 1991.

In the context of the resources available, DÍON, on a continuing basis, advise me on proposed changes of emphasis, refinements of services and on the development of new services. The Deputy will be aware that in 1990 DÍON recommended seven new projects for grant funding.

Because of their long experience and expertise in this whole area, I am satisfied that DÍON are in the best position to assess the need for further initiatives. I am prepared to consider sympathetically any proposals I receive from DÍON in that regard.

Because there is no drop-in day care centre for the Irish community in Birmingham and the fact that they are encountering a major problem there at present with homeless Irish people, especially middle aged homeless Irish people, would the Minister make urgent representations to the DÍON Committee to sympathetically consider their application next year? Does he realise there is a major problem obtaining in the Midlands apart from London? We hear about cardboard city in London but I can assure the Minister that there is an equally difficult problem being encounteredvis-à-vis homeless in Birmingham.

I will do that. I know that Deputy Deenihan takes a particular interest in what is happening to our emigrants. I have read the full papers produced by the Birmingham Welfare Information Centre. What they were endeavouring to do was to get a considerable grant from Birmingham City Council for housing. At present, they have three staff in the centre there and want to extend the number, so the DÍON grant for this year will help in that endeavour. I know they still experience problems. I will certainly talk to the committee about them.

I was hoping to call Deputy Connor at this stage whose Question No. 20 refers to this matter.

This is very important, a Cheann Comhairle.

Deputy Connor has a question tabled also and I must ask that he now be heard.

I am rather disappointed at the Minister's reply because the problem of homeless Irish in United Kingdom cities, particularly in London, is a major one. It is not sufficient to say we are leaving it to the DÍON Committee and so on. It should be remembered that while DÍON receive limited funding from this country and have their own resources, this is the major responsibility of this country. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves to read an article inThe Irish Times yesterday——

I must dissuade the Deputy from making a speech.

——relating to a group of people providing funding to bring home homeless people from London for Christmas.

I want to assist the Deputy but we must proceed by way of supplementary question.

Should we not be ashamed of ourselves? For that reason should not this Government become directly involved rather than operate through DÍON all the time? The Government should become directly involved in coming to the assistance of these people.

I would be very glad to outline for Deputies Connor and Deenihan precisely the policy we operate — but it would take too much time at Question Time. Were we to follow the policy outlined by Deputy Connor, that would be totally against what the Irish community in Britain want done.

That is not what they tell me.

I should say that the authorities here do not leave it to the nationals of other countries to look after the problems of our emigrants and the same applies abroad. We provide outreach, frontline services, helping the voluntary organisations to run their administrations and provide services, advice and guidance. As far as the provision of accommodation is concerned, it is our view and that of Irish organisations — whether it be the chaplaincy or other services — that these matters of capital funding are for the local authorities in the United Kingdom. We endeavour to help, through CARA and the various other services, to achieve the maximum result. That is the work the DÍON committee carry out in conjunction with the Irish federation societies and many other bodies.

Will the Minister increase the allocation to DÍON in the coming year?

Will the Minister view the application of the Irish Welfare Information Centre in Birmingham sympathetically and seriously because they must now pay money to bury a large number of Irish middle aged immigrants in Birmingham?

I accept that and I am sympathetic to the point Deputy Deenihan is making. The word reaching us is that the difficulties being experienced have switched from young people outside of London to middle aged Irish people who may emigrate to Britain in their fifties.

In support of Deputy Deenihan's case, I do not go along entirely with Deputy Connor on the matter of disbursement in that the Minister has available to him a vehicle in DÍON, but would the Minister give special consideration to what is actually required, that is a specific payment and an increased allocation to DÍON, particularly for the Birmingham Welfare Centre which has the second largest concentration of Irish nationals outside London living in Britain?

We will look at that.

In view of the Minister's reply that he will adhere to the indirect policy of intervention, will he give a commitment to increase the funding to DÍON and the other welfare agencies who deal with homeless Irish and Irish in trouble in the United Kingdom?

We have not done too badly so far.