Economic Plight of Irish Emigrants: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy Rabbitte on Tuesday, 27 January 2004:
That Dáil Éireann:
— acknowledging that hundreds of thousands of Irish people were forced, through economic and cultural circumstances to emigrate to Britain to earn a living through manual work, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s;
— conscious that this group is believed to have remitted, between 1939 and 1969, the sum of £3.5 billion to this country in that period which played a crucial role in sustaining families and communities at a time of dire poverty;
— shocked at the appalling conditions in which many of these now elderly Irish citizens are forced to live, which were depicted so vividly in the "Prime Time" programme broadcast on 22 December last;
— acknowledging that while a number of Irish Governments attempted to address some of the issues concerning the plight of this generation of Irish workers, not enough was done and that there is no excuse for the failure to tackle these issues during the Celtic tiger period;
— believing that the failure of the Government to act in a time of relative economic plenty and especially the shocking decision to cut funding for DÍON by 5% in 2003 is a particular stain on its record;
— condemns the failure of the Government to implement the recommendations made by the Task Force on Policy Regarding Emigrants, published in August 2002;
— calls for the early implementation of the report's recommendations particularly the establishment of a new structure to co-ordinate the provision of services for Irish emigrants and communities abroad, the Agency for the Irish Abroad; and the establishment of a funding scheme for the provision of care and support services to elderly returning emigrants in supported housing accommodation.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"— recognises the great contribution that many Irish emigrants have made over the years to the development of their adopted countries as well as to Ireland;
-— acknowledges, however, that some of those who left were inadequately prepared for the challenges of living abroad and require special assistance and support;
— commends the decision of the Government to establish the task force on policy regarding emigration and welcomes the publication of the task force report in August 2002;
— recognises that the task force report represents a template for future action in this area and that the implementation of its wide-ranging recommendations will have to be phased over a number of years;
— acknowledges the efforts made by the Government so far to implement the recommendations of the task force report;
— welcomes the Government's priorities in targeting resources on the most needy among our emigrants, including the elderly, those who are at greatest risk of marginalisation and social exclusion as well as returning emigrants, and on improving the capacity of voluntary organisations to provide more effective services for emigrants;
— welcomes the changes in pension eligibility introduced by the Government and the consequent increase in pension entitlements for emigrants abroad which this year is expected to amount to €80 million;
— welcomes the allocation of €4.063 million this year in the Vote for the Department of Foreign Affairs for emigrant services; and
— commends the Government for its commitment to address the needs of our emigrants abroad."
— (Minister for Foreign Affairs)

I wish to share time with the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Deputy Treacy.

The Government has provided assistance to Irish emigrants, particularly in Britain but also in the US and Australia, for many years. The total amount allocated in recent years is €18 million to Britain and €4 million to the US.

Ireland's emigration story is remarkable. Of the 3 million citizens living abroad, almost 1.2 million are Irish born, which is one third of the current population. That indicates a significant rate of emigration, particularly over the past 30 or 40 years. Emigrants have made an enormous contribution to the development of this country, as well as to the many societies in which they have settled. The majority of our emigrants are well integrated, living productive and happy lives abroad and are contributing greatly to their adopted countries. As the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated last night, the story of Irish emigration is not all doom and gloom and tragedy. It has many positive aspects and should not be seen through the prism of failure.

Thankfully, the number of emigrants has declined considerably over the past few years and, of those who emigrate, only a small proportion require special support. Recent research indicates a greater number of migrants are moving from Britain to Ireland than from Ireland to Britain and that is a welcome change.

Although, the motion focuses on the negative stories of poverty, loneliness and the needs of a particular group of post-war emigrants in the UK, the Government has done a great deal for emigrants in recent years, although we need to do more. Financial assistance for emigrant services abroad has increased substantially. The DÍON fund has been allocated €3.57 million this year, which is almost six times greater than its allocation when the previous Government took office in 1997. The Government has provided more assistance for pre-departure services in Ireland and it has introduced the pre-1953 pension scheme, 60% of which goes to Irish people abroad. This year €80 million will go to emigrants under this heading.

The Government also introduced the special initiative for returning emigrants to enable them to apply for social housing without having to be resident in Ireland and it established a task force on policy regarding emigrants. The task force placed special emphasis in its report on protecting and supporting Irish emigrants abroad who are marginalised or at greatest risk of exclusion. I will illustrate this through examples of how the DÍON fund operates.

The DÍON grant of €2.573 million in 2003 was allocated to 57 voluntary organisations — 45 of which are under Irish management. These organisations provided advice and assistance to approximately 30,500 people in 2002. Irish managed organisations assisted 23,000 while the non-Irish organisations assisted 7,500. In addition, €150,000 was allocated to the Federation of Irish Societies for capacity building to enable it to provide more effective support to its affiliated organisations. A total of €2.723 million was allocated to Britain in 2003, slightly more than in 2002.

Many of the organisations that DÍON funds assist Irish people who are homeless or badly housed and who, in many cases, are in poor health. I have met representatives of these organisations, which include Acton Homeless Concern, Cricklewood Homeless Concern, Leeds Irish Health and Homes and Rehab UK in Coventry. For example, the Rehab Irish Elders Resource Centre, ‘Teach na hÉireann', in Coventry has been supported by DÍON since 1999. It received a grant of €30,158 last year towards the salaries of a project manager and a support worker, who provided services to more than 150 elderly Irish people. Support from DÍON enables Irish voluntary organisations to provide assistance and advice to many such marginalised people. The Rehab project in Coventry is now managed by Rehab Ireland.

DÍON also supports the Simon Community, which works on behalf of homeless people in London. The group received a grant of €30,158 in 2003 towards the salary of an administrator-fundraiser to work on behalf of homeless Irish people in London. The Simon Community assisted 236 Irish people in 2002, which represents one quarter of its clients.

Over the past two years, half of the DÍON allocation went to organisations that provide services to the elderly. One of these is the Southwark Irish Pensioners Project, which has been funded by DÍON since 1995. Last year this organisation received a DÍON grant of €57,708 towards the salary of a community co-ordinator and two part-time outreach workers. The organisation has gone from strength to strength in recent years and it has 482 members. They are all over 60 years of age and 97% of them are Irish. Southwark Irish Pensioners Project operates a drop-in service and lunch club five days a week for its elderly Irish clients, a number of whom are disabled and in poor health. Such interventions make a difference to the lives of these people.

Many of the organisations funded by DÍON have outreach workers who seek out and befriend elderly Irish people who are living alone or homeless and who may be in poor circumstances and health. For instance, Southwark Irish Pensioners Project makes contact with lonely and vulnerable people through the local hospital discharge system and befriends others through home visits. The London Irish Centre in Camden also employs outreach workers, as do the Irish in Greenwich Project, Irish Community Care Manchester, Irish Community Care Merseyside and Coventry Irish Society. I have only mentioned a few but it is important that they should be acknowledged in the debate.

Overall, therefore, much is being done to help disadvantaged Irish emigrants in Britain. We must do more but it is not all down to the Government. In addition to financial support, it would be helpful if the various county organisations such as the Mayo Association could make connections with, and offer support to, needy fellow countymen and women living in the United Kingdom. In most cases these elderly people will not come home but they would like to be remembered and acknowledged by their home town or county by way of contact, annual homecoming, visit or holiday. If the county associations included them on mailing lists and newsletters, it would make a significant difference to lonely Irish people living abroad.

Irish newspapers and radio programmes are vital connecting mechanisms and there are opportunities for media organisations such as RTE, which made the "Prime Time" programme, to contribute. A key recommendation of the task force report is that an agency for the Irish abroad should be established to organise services at home and abroad for our diaspora. The Minister did not rule out the possibility of such an agency last night but he indicated a preference to spend the current budget on frontline services provided by various groups and charities in England rather than spending €2 million on an expensive administrative body. A special unit will be established in the Department of Foreign Affairs to co-ordinate support services for the Irish abroad and, with the support of all Members, the budget will increase substantially over the coming years to meet their needs.

The Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants and the Irish Chaplaincy in Camden have lobbied for many years on the subject of the marginalised Irish in London and elsewhere and they have expressed similar concerns about the alarming rates of mental illness among poor post-war Irish emigrants in England, the above average suicide rates and high levels of alcohol abuse. These issues were properly highlighted in the "Prime Time" programme and the task force report.

At a time of unprecedented prosperity at home, we owe a debt to these elderly emigrants who now find themselves isolated and impoverished in England, after working all of their lives. Many of them worked in the building trade, which is a notoriously harsh and insecure working environment. Although their lives were hard they sent home money to families in Ireland to build up our economy when times were hard here. In this regard, it would be interesting to know what proposals, if any, the various successful construction companies in the United Kingdom, which enriched themselves on the backs of Irish labourers, have to contribute to a welfare fund for their former workers who now find themselves in dire predicaments.

Is cúis áthais domsa seans a bheith agam labhairt ar an rún seo faoi dhroch riocht eacnamaíoch eisimircigh ár dtíre. Aontaím leis an óráid a thug an t-Aire Gnóthaí Eachtracha, Deputy Cowen, aréir agus leis an óráid a thug mo chomhghleacaí, an t-iar Aire Stáit, Ms O'Donnell, anocht.

I would be concerned that, as a result of the recent "Prime Time" programme the impression might be created that the Government has not been addressing the needs of our emigrants abroad over the years. Nothing could be further from the truth. My Government colleague, Deputy Cowen, Minister for Foreign Affairs, spelt out in great detail last night the continual yearly increases in support for our emigrants which the Government has allocated. The increase of €1 million for this purpose this year, to an overall figure of €4 million, clearly illustrates this position. Rightly, the majority of this funding goes to emigrant support services in Britain, the main destination of our emigrants in the 1950s and 1960s.

The DÍON fund is the major vehicle through which Irish Government support is channelled to the most needy and vulnerable of our emigrant community in Britain. This fund has been increased substantially over the last few years. It has more than trebled since 2000. This represents a record level of support for Irish emigrant welfare services in Britain. The additional €1 million allocated for this year was a recognition of, and a continuing financial support for, the essential work of Irish welfare organisations which assist the most disadvantaged groups in the Irish community throughout Britain.

This increase in funding over the last few years has had a number of positive outcomes. It encouraged new applicants for DÍON grants and new projects so that 57 organisations were approved for grants in 2002 and 2003 compared with 40 in 1999 and 2000. A total of 21 agencies were awarded funding on a three-year basis in 2002 and this accounted for 44% of the fund. Eighteen agencies are currently in receipt of three-year funding, accounting for 47% of the 2003 fund. This has created a degree of stability and permits multiannual programming.

About a quarter of the fund went to capacity building posts and projects in 2001 and 2002. This helps to secure funding from other sources and to develop organisations and allow them to operate more efficiently and will ultimately benefit the Irish community. Many of these capacity building projects continued to be funded in 2003.

The size of the grants is now substantial. There is a maximum grant of €82,530 per project, so agencies with more than one project can receive substantial amounts. In 2003, for example, €138,000 went to the London Irish Centre in Camden, €106,000 to Irish Community Care Manchester, €102,000 to the Irish Welfare and Information Centre in Birmingham, €88,000 to Brent Irish Advisory Service and €77,000 to Immigrant Counselling and Psychotherapy.

The salaries of 100 workers dedicated to the welfare of the Irish community are currently supported by DÍON. Others, of course, are funded from UK statutory and other charitable sources. This is double the level of three years ago. Since the doubling of the fund in 2001, almost 30% of jobs in specifically Irish organisations have been supported by DÍON and in 2003 DÍON was supporting 35% of the jobs in the Irish voluntary sector.

From the information supplied to DÍON in 2003, it is estimated that the number of Irish people assisted by Irish welfare organisations in 2002 was in the region of 23,000 while up to 7,500 were helped by non-Irish managed organisations, a total of approximately 30,500.

Funding for older Irish people and Irish Travellers, one of the main priority areas of DÍON, has increased significantly. Almost half the fund, €1.3 million, went to these groups in 2003. Of this, €873,000 went to elders' projects, €332,000 to Traveller projects and €119,000 to repatriation projects.

As the Irish-born population grows older, the demand is growing for advice and support for repatriation of elderly people. For the past three years, DÍON has funded two organisations, the Return to Ireland Aisling project in Camden and the Safe Home programme in Mulranny, County Mayo. I am sure we will hear more about that later this evening. These two organisations co-operate with each other and both do great work advising and assisting elderly Irish people who wish to return to live in Ireland. Through their efforts, about 220 elderly people have returned to Ireland permanently. I know some of them myself.

Since 2002, DÍON has provided a small amount of funding to a number of welfare organisations for social and health related activities for the elderly. These include keep-fit classes and lectures on benefits, health and so on. This funding amounted to €25,280 in 2002 and €13,570 in 2003, due to a lower level of such applications.

We must look at this question on a global basis. We can be proud of the contributions our emigrants have made, both to their countries of adoption and to this country. The last census in the United States of America showed 42 million people claiming Irish descent. More than 100 million people claim Irish descent throughout the world.

The International Fund for Ireland, which has been so beneficial to this country and, particularly, to development in Northern Ireland, is supported by Irish emigrants in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and across Europe, who work assiduously to ensure that funds are put in place to sustain, expand and renew on an annual basis the International Fund for Ireland. That is a credit to our emigrants. We can be very proud of them and we must be grateful to them for that.

I am proud to be part of a Government that has shown its appreciation for our emigrants through the generosity of the increased cash support we have constantly given through DÍON over the years.

I would like to share my time with Deputy Mulcahy.

I am pleased to take the opportunity of speaking on this issue. I am glad to share the platform with my good friend, Deputy Treacy, and I am impressed by what he has said. His county, like many others, has been deeply affected by emigration.

Many of my family were emigrants. My grandfather was killed in a merchant ship off the French coast in 1917. My father joined the Irish Guards in 1937, when many young men from Ireland travelled the same path. I emigrated when I left school, went to London and thought I would stay there for the rest of my life. I came home because I was homesick, and the rest is history. At the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting last night I wondered where I would be today and what I would be doing if I had stayed in London, but we will never know.

That was a provocative question for Deputy O'Connor to ask.

It is strange how one's life can turn, and here I am. I have strong feelings about this subject. Many of us have experience of emigration. My grandfather and father went abroad and sent money home because that was how things were done in those days. Those of us who are privileged to be in public life have an obligation to speak out and to remind the Government of its obligations. I am happy to do that. I am also happy with the response of the Government, which has been along the lines outlined by Deputies Cowen and Treacy.

The "Prime Time" programme hit a nerve. It does that very effectively. While some of us might not agree all of the time with what it does, in this case many said to me it did not quite reflect real life. Those of us who have the opportunity to travel abroad occasionally see there is a difference. Nevertheless, concerns are being expressed and problems highlighted. We have a responsibility to take action.

With some colleagues, I recently had the opportunity to meet parliamentarians from Portugal. Among other experiences we shared, they told us that their Parliament reflected the need to deal with those issues. Three of the 235 MPs elected to the national Parliament in Lisbon represent emigrants and come from abroad. While I do not suggest we need to go down that road, it gives us an idea of something that should be considered in the long term.

During the discussion of Seanad reform, representation of emigrant bodies and interests abroad was raised. Perhaps the Department should consider this at some stage. Resources could be made available to parliamentarians in the Houses of the Oireachtas to reflect such issues.

Like others, I often receive correspondence from abroad. When I was first elected to the Dáil, I was confused by the fact that a man from Australia wrote and asked for my autograph. I have no idea why he wanted my signature and presume he also wrote to far more famous Deputies. However, it gave me a chance to correspond with him and I gather that he was interested not only in signatures — as I also was at one stage in my life — but also in exchanging views and sharing experiences with Irish politicians.

The Minister mentioned one matter which has not been highlighted in this debate. Thank God, because of the strength of our economy, the vast majority of those now going abroad are doing so out of choice. However, there is still a need to have information packs available for those who really want to go abroad. When I first went to London, I did not have a clue. Were it not for the fact that somebody from the Irish centre met me at Euston Station, I would not have known anything. It is good that those days are over.

I commend the Labour Party for tabling the motion. However, I do not agree with its wording but with the Government amendment. It is a very important topic which for all of us represents one of the most emotional and heartfelt matters about which we can talk. Having visited one of the hostels in London I was distressed and slightly depressed by what I had seen. I was full of admiration for the staff and volunteers working in the centre which was a very large "wet" hostel.

The Government is taking the motion very seriously and addressing the chief recommendations of the task force. I do not want to repeat what the Minister of State said tonight and what the Minister for Foreign Affairs said last night. Government funding comes to €4 million. Total funding in the years 1995, 1996 and 1997 amounted to only €2 million. I do not say this in any critical way — they were not as prosperous times. However, the amount of money has increased substantially. As a Government backbencher, I say to the Government that much more money needs to be spent. I do not mind saying this. There is a very large problem affecting some of the finest people who ever left our shores. I would like to see a significant increase in Government funding over the next three years.

I was very encouraged by what the former Minister of State, Bobby Molloy, did regarding voluntary housing schemes. Perhaps there should be a quota system in all social and affordable housing of perhaps 0.5% or 1% in order that anyone who wants to return home can be placed on such a list at no disadvantage. I have never heard it said there was a problem with housing people who wished to return. One of the greatest problems is convincing people to return. That was my experience in London. Some of the people involved are so long gone and have lost so much contact with their families, communities and traditions that serious social intervention would be required to encourage them back. If they are merely left there, they will never return. It is not all about money. The Government and the task force should establish a specific unit to identify those people who may have gone beyond helping themselves. I met such people in London. Those living in never-never land need assistance. In my experience some are so far gone it is hard to see what can be done. Some are alcoholics in a dreadful state. I again pay tribute to the staff and volunteers at the centres who have made their lives more tolerable.

I found the tone of Deputy Michael Higgins's speech last night somewhat offensive. He painted a picture of a totally uncaring Ireland but there was no mention of all the social services available and the voluntary work carried out here.

Yes there was.

I will read some of his speech shortly. I found it very distressing for him to talk about Ireland having an "absence of social protection similar to that provided in the Scandinavian or other European models."

That is right.

Irish social services bear an equal standard to any in Scandinavia. I found the complete negativity offensive.

We are ranked 12th out of 14 countries.

Please allow Deputy Mulcahy to speak without interruption.

Deputy Higgins also seemed to describe everyone going to a Manchester United match as a pawn.

I did not say that.

I will read it out.

The Deputy should do so.

The Deputy said: "...while the people who were his pawns queued to get into the ground."

The Deputy should read about the Rolls Royce going to Manchester with his friend.

I did not know that every Manchester United supporter was a pawn. It behoves somebody going to make a serious contribution to this debate to make a balanced speech and give Ireland due recognition for all the work done.

I did not make a hypocritical crawling contribution like the Deputy's.

Nor did I find any——

That is rubbish.

The Deputy sat in a Government which only gave €2 million over three years and seems to be decrying the efforts of the task force and——

Pay for the task force and leave us alone.

—— calling Ireland a completely materialistic place.

That is right.

I found that completely offensive and, in my humble opinion, completely lacking in balance.

We now have net inward immigration as a result of the large numbers coming here from abroad, many of them returning emigrants. In this context, the work of such bodies as Safe-Home, a voluntary organisation, which helps secure accommodation for elderly Irish emigrants wishing to come home, is to be highly praised, as is the Government for showing its commitment to it. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has given this organisation €100,000 over the past three years.

I pay tribute to the efforts of the Minister of State with responsibility for the elderly, Deputy Callely, who recently opened a new centre to help elderly people in Birmingham.

That will cause inward migration all right.

He is a great man.

It is wide of the mark to suggest the Government is not taking this issue seriously. Notwithstanding all of the increases, which are a matter of public record, more should be done. Over the next few years we could double or quadruple the amount and work would still remain to be done. In trying to make a speech with a sense of balance, the efforts by Governments of all hues to date have been inadequate. We accept that it is a very big problem that concerns all of us equally. I feel very strongly about it. However, if we are to make a contribution, it should be balanced and not negative and excessively critical of Irelandvis-à-vis any other European country.

There are only 20 seconds left for Deputy O'Donovan to make his contribution.

I regret that because I was an emigrant. I am the youngest of a family of 11, eight of whom emigrated. I was told that I would have ten minutes in which to contribute. However, I will use the time available to make a brief point.

I experienced emigration first hand and I have no time for rhetoric. However, I urge the Government and its successors not to neglect this problem. The number of people involved represents only a small percentage but they are extremely proud. I saw those people in Camden Town, Kentish Town and outside the Crown in Cricklewood, who were forced to work on the lump and never paid contributions. A previous speaker made the point that many contractors such as MacAlpines, Murphys etc. made a great deal of money off the backs of these Irish people and gave very little back.

That is right.

A great deal has been done but there is much more to be achieved. Assistance must be directed through the proper channels so that those who are most in need receive it. Many of the people in question have a great deal of pride. They travelled to England young and ambitious and many of them had little or no education. They slaved away and now at the age of 65 or 70 they have been left on the rubbish heap and neglected. Some of them do not want to return to Ireland. If they want to remain in England, they are entitled to better services and assistance from the Government. I support the provision of additional funding for them.

Hear, hear.

I wish to share time with Deputies Ferris, Harkin, Cowley and Connolly.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

A great deal has been said about the Ireland of the 1950s. I recently had a conversation with a Minister — it was a private conversation so I will not mention the person's name — during which we spoke about the 1950s and 1960s in Ireland. He looked back on that time with great fondness. That is fine because the time of one's youth can often be good, at least in one's memories. However, I informed him that the 1950s was a terrible period in Ireland — there is no getting away from that. It was a time of hardship, great suffering and pain for many people as a result of enforced emigration. These are the people about whom we are speaking tonight.

Like many Members, I am familiar with the phenomenon of emigration in the 1980s, another difficult period in our history. I recall visiting many emigrants in Camden Town, Cricklewood and elsewhere in London and throughout Britain who were living in deplorable conditions in squats. They often went to bars at night and mixed with the Irish who had travelled over in the 1950s and who were well depicted by John Healy in his book. Mr. Healy stated that many of these people would return to Ireland at Christmas in their best suits and go on the tear. They would buy everyone a drink and make it seem as if they had made it big in England. However, it was all show. Their existence in England was dreadful. During the day they would carry the hod and at night they would go to the pub. That was life for many of them. These are the people about whom we are speaking.

A recent meeting of the Joint Committee on Health and Children was addressed by an economist called Seán Barrett. He informed us that because of emigration in the 1950s, we are enjoying what he called a "demographic bounce". By that he meant that if those people had remained in Ireland we would be obliged to pay up to 2% more, which is a large amount, for health services and nursing homes. I am sure the Tánaiste, in light of her recent statements about the elderly, is glad that we are enjoying that demographic bounce.

That is a silly statement.

The Minister of State is correct, the Tánaiste's statement was silly.

No, I was referring to the Deputy's statement.

Between 1939 and 1969, £3.5 billion was sent back to this country by the emigrants to whom I refer. We owe them a great deal and we are not doing enough for them.

The task force established by the Government, which published its report in 2002, made it perfectly clear in its recommendations that many emigrants need our assistance urgently and not in a few budgets time when there might be more money in the kitty. The latter is always the excuse. We had our Celtic tiger and we know how successive Governments squandered the money and ignored our poor, both here and abroad. There is no excuse for the meanness being shown by the Government. That task force called for €8 million to be allocated to assist emigrants in the UK in 2003 but the figure for 2004 is only half that amount.

A number of groups dealing with emigrants, including the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants, have called for the establishment of a dedicated agency for the Irish abroad to co-ordinate services at home and abroad for our emigrants. The latter was another recommendation of the task force and such an agency should be set up as a matter of urgency. That is why the Green Party is supporting the Labour Party's timely motion.

The conditions in which many elderly Irish in Britain live, as portrayed in the recent "Prime Time" programme, show that our assistance is long overdue. The figures involved are stunning. I hope that the motion will not just sit on the shelf or that this matter will be parked. Something must be done and it must be done now.

On behalf of Sinn Féin Deputies, I indicate our support for the motion. I also commend the motion. While I understand the specific contents of the motion in regard to those emigrants who are now elderly, we must remember that the 1950s and 1960s were not the only decades during which mass emigration was a feature of life in this State. Everyone will recall that it was also a recent phenomenon, particularly, as Deputy Gormley stated, during the 1980s, when a coalition Government made up of Fine Gael and Labour held power and when emigration reached epidemic proportions. Since the foundation of the State, emigration has been of such proportions.

I mention the 1980s because many of those who emigrated during that decade have also experienced the type of problems highlighted in the recent "Prime Time" documentary and will become the next wave of impoverished elderly. Statistics indicate that a disturbingly high number of young people forced to move in the 1980s have already fallen into poverty and squalor, as evidenced by the numbers who have been imprisoned or who are in receipt of care in respect of their mental health or with regard to alcohol and drug problems. This makes it all the more important that this State lives up to its responsibility and provides the support recommended by the task force on policy regarding emigrants.

Anyone who grew up in rural Ireland — I grew up in County Kerry — in the early 1950s will know that there was emigration on a daily basis. Across entire stretches of countryside, there was not one family that was not affected. I refer to working class people, small farming communities and fishing communities. Most of the families to which I refer had to emigrate. Every county has a small bridge which became known as a "bridge of tears", where people said goodbye to their loved ones before the emigrated, knowing full well that, in most instances, they would not return.

What must not be forgotten is emigration from the Six Counties, which was enforced in nature and aimed at maintaining a demographic imbalance. Nationalist people in the Six Counties were denied labour and housing and were forced to emigrate to feed their families. A famous ballad by Sigerson Clifford captures some of the sadness brought about by emigration. He describes the boys of Barr na Sraide who had played on the streets of Cahirciveen, who had taken part in the war against the Black and Tans and had been forced to leave home and were now in London or New York. The particular sadness of Clifford's verse is that it is about real people, men who had grown up in and been part of a national revolution and who, because of the betrayal of that revolution, had to leave while the old order of privilege and wealth was reinforced. The failure of this State for most of its history to provide for all its citizens has been the root of emigration and the reason so many of our people across the seas are ending their days in poverty.

Many were forced to emigrate because the family farm could not support them or because there was no employment in their locality or in the big towns and cities. Many had left school early and their youth and lack of worldly experience and education often made them vulnerable when they settled in their new homes. I had to emigrate at one point in my life. People were caught in a trap. Those who emigrated with little money in their pockets were glad to get employment. However, when they got their pay cheque they were unable to cash it and had to do so in a pub. There, they were left waiting for hours and a good proportion of their wages was taken from them. Many of those people, as we saw on the recent "Prime Time" programme, have ended up living in poverty or as alcoholics. They are destroyed.

This State has much to answer for in allowing such a situation to develop. It is leaving people in England, America and other countries and offers no support or help in bringing them home and giving them their entitlements and rights as Irish people. Now, immigrants are arriving in this country and the treatment meted out to them by the present Government is an absolute disgrace.

That is outrageous.

It is hypocrisy on the part of Government Members of the House to talk about our emigrants——

The hypocrisy is from the Deputy.

——when the Government is doing to immigrants what was done to our emigrants in England, America, Australia and throughout the world. It is shameful to try to defend that position. The Government is doing the same as was done to Irish people. Government Members should be ashamed of themselves.

The Deputy should be ashamed.

I have nothing of which to be ashamed.

I wholeheartedly endorse the motion put forward by the Labour Party and ask the Government to implement immediately the recommendations of the task force on emigrants. I use the word "immediately" deliberately. Every day, week and month thousands of Irish emigrants sent home their hard earned remittances to help support and build up Ireland Inc. Indeed, in many ways they laid the foundation stone for the Celtic tiger. Thousands of these Irish emigrants live in totally unacceptable conditions and we are guilty of not repaying our debt.

Sometimes we forget that we have a second national debt. It has nothing to do with the balance of payments but it is a national debt that is owed to our emigrants. According to the annual State returns from the 1940s to the 1970s, under the heading "emigrants' remittances", our emigrants contributed between 2% and 3% of GDP. In today's terms, that amounts to between €2 billion and €3 billion. They contributed enough money to fund the education system. When I, and many Deputies were availing of what we called "free education", it was being paid for by the hard labour of our emigrants.

According to Tim Pat Coogan's book,Wherever Green is Worn: The Story of the Irish Diaspora, 50% of the Irish who went to Britain after World War Two left school at 12 years of age. Many emigrants had little formal education and spent their lives in hard labour so their weekly remittances could fund our free education system. The really sad part of this is that many emigrants saw their exile as a temporary situation. They did not buy houses, invest in retirement pensions or buy health care. They invested in Ireland and we have turned our backs on them.

We have spent some money but the scale of the need is such that we must now provide the €18 million recommended by the task force. This goes beyond the community and voluntary level assistance which some have suggested. We need a strategic, targeted response. An example of this is provided by the work of Deputy Cowley and others in the Safe Home programme, which has been recognised by the EU as a model of good practice.

This is a finite group of people and their need is finite. They contributed to this country in a way that has never been properly acknowledged. There is an onus on the Government to do so before they are beyond acknowledgement. Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.

The RTE "Prime Time" documentary before Christmas on Ireland's forgotten people clearly illustrated the dreadful conditions in which some of our people have to live abroad. One could not help but feel a sense of shame when watching the programme.

Unfortunately, when people in earlier years were compelled through economic necessity to leave our shores, there was a feeling at home of superiority towards them. The feeling persisted that in some inexplicable way they were letting the country down and that they should have been prepared to remain in this country and live in relative poverty. Nevertheless, these emigrants, who form a considerable part of what is known as the Irish diaspora, remitted a sum of €4.4 billion between World War Two and 1970. Students of economics will recall that a feature of Ireland's national income was entitled "emigrants' remittances" and the annual figure was invariably substantial. It continued to bolster the home economy. This country has benefited to a much greater extent from the remittances sent home by its emigrants than from grant aid from EU structural and social development funds.

The report of the task force on policy regarding emigrants, chaired by the man from Mullaghbawn, Paddy O'Hanlon, was published in August 2002. It recommended that an allocation of €18 million would be needed to support Irish voluntary, social, cultural, educational and sporting bodies. The sum provided in the 2004 budget is €1 million. This is far from adequate and should be reconsidered in view of the report's recommendation that €18 million be provided.

I congratulate the Labour Party on putting down this important motion. It is true that the Government inherited the neglect and unfair treatment of our emigrants by previous Governments but it also inherited the responsibility to do something for them, especially given our knowledge of how bad the circumstances are of many emigrants in the UK. This is particularly important for a Government that was in power during the greatest economic prosperity this country has known.

The task force has clearly set out what needs to be done. The Government spokesperson said last night that it is a template for future action. However, let us hope that action is taken now. Time is of the essence. It is not on the side of the people who are living in bad circumstances. We have a window of opportunity now which will not be available again. This should be done from a sense of justice, not as a form of charity.

Major work has been done by the church and voluntary associations in England are doing their best. I have met members of these organisations but they need more help. I accept that money has been allocated but the "Prime Time" programme did a service for this nation by highlighting the gross deficiencies that still exist. More money is needed. That is clearly set out by the task force and its recommendation should have been honoured. The money that has been provided by the Government pales into insignificance when compared with the millions that were sent home.

I was involved in setting up the Safe Home organisation. It addresses one aspect of this issue in that it assists emigrants who wish to return home. I acknowledge the funding provided by the Government through DÍON and also by community and family and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The organisation is designated the national repatriation centre for Ireland. Since the programme began there have been 5,500 inquiries and 230 people have been brought home, of whom 153 came back through voluntary housing.

I acknowledge the input of the former Minister of State, Bobby Molloy. We approached him to discuss the situation of people abroad who were not allowed to be on the housing list. As a result of the capital assistance scheme, 25% of voluntary housing can potentially be allocated for emigrants. The problem, however, is that more co-operation is needed with the local authorities to ensure the land is available for the houses and new developments to be built. That is a problem at present.

We have forgotten about our emigrants when we should have remembered them. They are responsible for bringing this country to its current level. Safe Home conducts an induction process. Ireland has changed and we counsel people to ensure their return is a positive experience. Through our monthly newsletter and our development officers we try to ensure that the emigrant is made familiar with how things are here. We work through the Aisling project as well. We bring people home on holiday to put their toe in the water, as it were, so they can experience how life is here.

There is an attitude in the local authority that there are too many emigrants. The housing assessments of emigrants should be part of the equation. A list of the people from those areas who need to go back there could be provided. It is better if people can go back as close as possible to the areas from which they came.

As regards free travel, I understand a concession is available in Northern Ireland, albeit a limited one. Why can we not give that concession to our emigrants? I have been told that would be against EU law. However, if it is possible to do it in Northern Ireland, why is it not possible to do it here? People who repatriate have nothing. A repatriation grant of €1,500 should be provided.

I welcome the Minister's announcement that more money will be provided, but we need much more. Talk is cheap, particularly when one considers what has been done and what still needs to be done. The voluntary bodies were looking for €8 million this year because they are doing significant work in the UK, but they did not get it. It is not too late to think about providing the necessary money when one considers what those people have done for us over the years. It is time to remember them because they will not be alive in a few years' time and we will look back in shame.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Costello and Penrose.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

This motion should be passed because it would be good not only for the people about whom we are talking in England, but also for us as individuals and as a country. We should acknowledge the contribution these people have made and we should look after those who looked after us when we needed it most. I do not know if there is anyone in this country who does not remember waiting for a parcel or a letter, which always arrived. We were lucky in many respects because many of the people who were forced to go to England due to economic circumstances returned to this country. While many of them did well in England, others did not. We owe those people a debt of gratitude, which we must repay. It would be good for us to do that.

During the 20 years between 1949 and 1969 the people we are talking about tonight contributed an estimated €3.9 billion to the Irish economy. That money was not sent in one lump sum every year or to a central fund to be distributed by agencies, but to the people they loved who needed it. We should recognise that. While some prospered and made a good life for themselves, others did not fare as well. Despite this staggering contribution, Irish emigrants today make up an appalling 60% of the homeless population in London. We should reflect on that, particularly when we consider their age and condition. Like Deputy Michael Higgins, I wonder how much of the money lying in dormant accounts was sent home. It should be easy to find that out; it is not rocket science. Where did it come from and is it still there? What will happen to it? That should be an easy task to undertake. That money is owed to these people.

Another astonishing and disgraceful statistic is that 40% of the children who left industrial schools in Ireland went to England. I attended a meeting last November of a group of such people. Like all politicians, I attend many meetings, but that meeting left a lasting impression. One woman told me she looked Irish, she sounded Irish, she felt Irish and she was Irish, but she did not feel she had any justifiable right to say that in public. The least they asked for was that the free telephone service, which all victims of abuse in industrial schools have in this country, would be extended to them. She told me that she had virtually no education because she worked in an industrial school — it was an industry rather than a school. She had to wait on the telephone line, which she cannot afford, for someone to answer her query. NOVA is the group charged with administering the educational fund which was set aside by the religious orders. However, it is impossible to find out what percentage of that fund is being spent in the UK on these people. That is only one small element of what we are talking about tonight.

Emigration has been part of the Irish psyche for a long time. Homelessness has become a depressing fact of life for many emigrants in Britain. There is an immediate need for the Government to provide greater resources for the groups working with our emigrants to give them a better quality of life. It should not be a question of "will we do that", but rather "we must do that". Part of the help provided by groups such as the Aisling project, the Safe Home project, Camden Elderly, Irish Network and Irish Community Care is advice on benefits, including State pensions, trips home and friendship. However, according to Ms Mary Creagh, leader of the Islington Labour Group, who works with the people for whom we should be responsible:

The issue for me is about the funding of advice services that enable Irish pensioners to access state benefits and support which they have paid into and are not taking up. In Islington the Irish Centre funding has been cut and the Irish Government did nothing for it apart from warm words. There's an argument here for targeting support at vulnerable inner city communities who are least likely to know their rights.

Behind the statistics are real life stories and tragedies of those who went to England to seek work and a better life for themselves and their families, but who found themselves in substandard and dilapidated accommodation or on the streets in its cities.

The House should consider the testimony of one man who was helped by the Aisling project to overcome his alcoholism and to return to Ireland for the first time in years. Speaking after his first trip home, he wondered why he had left. He began to believe that he was a capable Irish person, not the person distorted by alcoholism and emigration. He was not the multi-coloured version of the person whose role he had assumed. The gentleman spoke about why he believed many people had not returned to Ireland. He said that what stops people going back to Ireland is the preconceived idea that they need to go back with plenty of money and they must be successful. He wanted to know how someone could go back if he or she was a street alcoholic. Those people are not coming back, but we should ensure they are looked after. We should ensure that those who wish to come back are welcome.

Forced emigration was the scourge of the people for two centuries. In the 19th century people were forced out of the country by famine and in the 20th century they were forced to leave through economic poverty. There are few families, particularly in the west where I originate, which have not experienced that scourge. My two brothers left the country at the ages of 14 and 15. One went to Scotland, while the other went to London. They had a difficult time trying to make a life for themselves with inadequate education and resources. I remember working with "grey and green" Murphy during many summers. It was a tough job for Irish labourers working in the trenches and on the building sites and for those working in pubs. It was a difficult life.

It is sad that since we got control of our own affairs in the 1920s tens of thousands of people emigrated in every decade up to the 1980s. Every year throughout the 1980s an average of between 30,000 and 40,000 people emigrated. A conservative minimum of 30,000 emigrants per annum over 70 years amounts to more than 2 million people, or half the present population, who emigrated in the 19th century. The "Prime Time" programme highlighted the atrocious conditions in which those generations now live throughout the length and breadth of Britain, in bedsits, hostels, doss houses, with the pub culture and very few amenities or resources to support them. These people sustained communities and families in the lean years in Ireland. Millions of pounds were sent back, the letter with the £10 or the dollars was a regular occurrence. When I was growing up in Sligo the custom every Christmas was to make up a parcel with a stuffed turkey to send to England. I saw my mother do this twice.

The leader of the Labour Party said yesterday these are a "vanished people". The Celtic tiger generation does not want to know them now; keeping up with the Joneses is more important. The younger generation is not to blame. If they knew how many of the older generation are living in such conditions the response would be different. The response from the generation now in power leaves much to be desired. An eminent journalist told me that when Éamon de Valera was Taoiseach in the 1940s he was asked to contribute to the emigrants in Britain and he refused. Helping our emigrants was never a priority. Not so long ago the late Brian Lenihan, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that Ireland was too small and that we could only expect that people would go abroad.

Last November I raised here an issue on behalf of the trustees of the Cricklewood Centre in London. The centre provides services, accommodation, food and recreational amenities for some 600 people, most of them Irish. They had the use of the building from the Diocese of Westminster at a token rent for 20 years but the diocese was to sell it by 31 December 2003. The trustees wanted me to ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Irish Government would contribute to the fund to buy it. The price was £725,000, with another £25,000 for renovation purposes. In response the Minister spoke about the great work that he and his Government were doing and the amount of extra money he had got, and was hoping to get, for services for the emigrants, but he would not contribute to this fund. The Government would fund DÍON and whatever services it provided. Ironically, the trustees had to go to the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and to the Irish builders, many of whom had exploited the Irish people who went abroad.

Did the builders contribute?

The Deputy should tell that to Deputy Michael D. Higgins.

Deputy Mulcahy was not at the launch of the Irish Pensioners Network.

It is a sad situation that people on that side of the House——

Deputy Michael D. Higgins criticisedthe builders. We heard a tirade last night on this subject.

Rightly so. Lord McAlpine is more likely to support Deputy Mulcahy's party than mine.

Deputy Mulcahy, please allow Deputy Costello to speak. There is very limited time for this debate.

The Deputy has just heard the opposite from his colleague.

This Government gave no support and that is a scandal. We should be declaring an emergency. This is a crisis and money should be made available to end it once and for all.

I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate and to compliment the Labour Party on putting down this motion. I also compliment and congratulate the makers of the "Prime Time" programme shown on 22 December last because it was most important in highlighting the plight of emigrants.

I come from an area in Ballynacargy from which 60% of my father's brothers were forced to emigrate in the 1950s. They told me this country's legacy was a one-way ticket on the boat. Some of them have been gone for over 50 or 60 years. There is no need to tell me what the builders did for them. They were the navvies, given every hard task, hand-digging the trenches, and the foundations of new towns such as Hemel Hempstead, boarding buses and vans outside the Crown in Cricklewood or the Spotted Bull in Willesden or Neasden or other places. I was with them in the 1970s when they were handed every task and had to scrounge for every shilling and work hard. They had to work on Sundays to make double time and try to save those few extra shillings.

Unlike many others here I was the recipient of their generosity at a time when the parcel was so important. I was the eldest of ten, something which Deputy Mulcahy might not understand. In rural areas in the 1950s and 1960s being the eldest of ten was a tough job, especially when one's father earned £4 a week as a county council labourer. Maybe that is why socialism is important to me. I want to make sure that the money which the large fat cat builders get is distributed. That is why I have no compunction about making them pay tax.

Many of those unfortunate labourers were on the lump and now they are paying the price, with no pensions or savings. I have visited them and at Westmeath County Council I suggested that the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government make a sum available to every local authority in the country to build a certain number of maisonettes each year to help bring back those who want to be repatriated. I congratulate Deputy Cowley on his work in this respect. Many yearn to return. They sing Irish songs and ballads but we do nothing to help them come back. We drove them out and we have an obligation to open our arms and take them back. I spoke to some today who have been gone for 50 or 60 years and they are delighted that somebody remembers them. They think they are forgotten and while they recognise the work being done by many organisations such as Safe Home and the Camden Elderly Irish Network and others, more needs to be done.

The money they sent home was vital sustenance for many of the families they left behind, the parcel sent home with some items of clothing was very important for events such as Confirmations and First Communions. We cannot forget their contribution which is unseen because of the privacy and pride of families. Some may not recall the wiring of a few shillings for those events, and the important registered letter but I do. One knew then there would be money for a particular event. It might have been only £1 but when one earned £4 a week that represented 25% of the wages which was a significant increase. That is how important it was. Let us have no lectures about what people had to go through.

We should provide the necessary money. Why was the DÍON contribution, meagre as it is, reduced this year? What signal did that send to these people? We owe it to them to remember them. We must provide the necessary finance. I agree with Deputy Michael D. Higgins that we should provide the wherewithal from the dormant accounts fund because a significant amount of that money was sent home by those people. It is very important that we provide the necessary finance because without them many of us would not be here. I always made a point of visiting these people. One should never forget one's roots. I went to see these people with my uncles, many of whom would love to return home. This is supposed to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. If that is the case, let us demonstrate it to our fellow citizens and acknowledge and implement without further delay the findings of the task force on emigration. That is the least we can do to help these people. I commend the motion to the House.

This has been a timely debate on an issue I feel I can confidently say has affected each member of this House and each family in the country in some way. Like Deputy Costello, I am among those whose family members, in my case a number of uncles, left the west many years ago to go to England in the lean years. Thankfully, they carved out a life for themselves and their families.

I welcome the constructive and positive tone which has characterised many of the contributions. There is a general recognition on all sides of the House of the need for us as a society to do more for our emigrants, especially our elderly emigrants and those who for whatever reason now find themselves in need of support and assistance. There is a general recognition of the debt we owe our emigrants, especially those who left involuntarily because they saw no other option open to them.

We need to see the phenomenon of emigration in its proper perspective. Many of our emigrants have integrated well into their adopted countries and live happy and successful lives. We should recognise the significant contributions the majority of our emigrants have made in their adopted countries and record our pride in their achievements. Those of us — I know from the debate there are many — who years ago as students went to London and elsewhere to work on building sites alongside emigrant workers will be aware of the pressures and strains many of them endured during their daily lives. As we all know, we had the opportunity and privilege to be able to return to Ireland after summer work, but others did not have that option.

In recognising that while some of our emigrants have experienced difficulties in coping with life abroad, it must be stressed that the responsibility for dealing with this issue does not fall solely on the Irish Government. The host governments of the countries in question have a duty to care for vulnerable or marginalised people, whatever their country of origin, and the local Irish communities have a responsibility to help their less fortunate compatriots. The extent to which Irish communities abroad have done so can be gauged by the wide range of voluntary Irish agencies and associations which provide an extraordinary level of support and comfort to vulnerable Irish emigrants. They deserve great recognition and appreciation for this. The challenge for the Irish Government is to work in partnership with the host governments and the voluntary agencies to provide the best possible level of care to those who need it. This is the approach of the Government.

I was struck by the recent welcome on all sides for the report of the task force and the priorities it identified. The Minister has made it clear that, in the allocation of grants this year, either through the DÍON fund or through other agencies, priority will be given to the areas highlighted by the task force. These include improving the effectiveness of the voluntary agencies involved in providing direct support to emigrants most in need by improving their capacity to secure funds from other sources; promoting more co-operation and communication between voluntary agencies at home and abroad to ensure the best use of available resources; and targeting assistance on the provision of frontline services to those who are at greatest risk of marginalisation and social exclusion, as well as the elderly and returning emigrants.

The Minister has secured an additional €1 million in the Vote for his Department this year. This will bring the total funding for emigrant services to €4 million, an increase of one third on last year. This is a significant increase and clearly indicates the commitment of the Government to our emigrants. The Minister also pointed out that this is not the extent of the Government's support for Irish people abroad. The Department of Social and Family Affairs provides financial assistance for pre-emigrant services and also pays out tens of millions of euro in pre-1953 pensions to Irish people living abroad, many of them in Britain.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provides assistance to returning emigrants, notably under the terms of the voluntary housing capital scheme which was amended by the former Minister, Bobby Molloy. Accommodation has been provided under this scheme for 153 returned emigrants in 82 units. The point was well made in the debate that ways to improve participation in this scheme should be examined. I agree that greater use can be made of the scheme for emigrants who wish to return by increasing liaison between local authorities and voluntary housing groups here and frontline services in the UK, including Irish voluntary agencies which become aware of the conditions of eligible emigrants. This issue deserves to be explored further.

A number of contributions to the debate have highlighted the amount of assistance given to vulnerable and elderly Irish emigrants in Britain through the DÍON fund and the extent to which the RTE "Prime Time" programme conveyed a misleading impression of the situation.

As I said earlier, the debate has been opportune and valuable. It has been valuable in that it has permitted us to reflect on the debt we owe our emigrants for the contributions they made over the years to the development of this country, recall the successes and achievements of so many of them abroad, remind us of our obligations to those who need our support and assistance and give a greater sense of purpose to our ongoing commitment to them. It has been a good debate. I thank the Opposition for tabling the motion but Fianna Fáil has an alternative motion which we will commend to the House.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Rabbitte.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I thank the Labour Party Leader, Deputy Rabbitte, and colleagues for focusing on our forgotten brothers and sisters languishing as social outcasts in London, Birmingham, Coventry, Liverpool and every other major town and city in the United Kingdom.

I was born in 1944 into a family of 14 children on a 15 acre farm in County Mayo, which was typical of families in the area at the time. Ten of the family emigrated. I remember the late 1950s and 1960s and want to remind the House of the reality of the time. In de Valera's great Republic — his picture hung in the kitchen of my house — dominated by an arrogant clergy who visited regularly, there was widespread poverty. We had no running water, showers, toilets, or electricity and had a limited diet. Meat was seldom on the table. Tuberculosis was rampant. There was a savage school regime and unaffordable fees if one was to go to second level school. Third level education was for doctors' sons. The only work was with larger farmers, as shop assistants or as skivvies in the houses of the gombeenmen or the remnants of the gentry. I could write a book on that alone. All they paid were slave wages and in some cases none. One was lucky to earn one's keep. Young men and women in de Valera's Republic had no option. They were forced to emigrate to get work simply to survive. That was some Republic.

The process of going abroad took some time and a lot of heartrending discussion before the decision was made. There was no option; a son or daughter had to emigrate. The first one to go was the hardest. A cardboard suitcase was purchased and all they brought with them were two shirts, some socks, working clothes, shoes and minor personal belongings. A going away "do" was held the night before. It was not called a party. It was more like a wake. I remember a succession of them. The next morning there was the leaving of the house, the hackney to the railway station, the tears and misery heaped on misery. The station in Claremorris was filled to capacity with other victims of the great Republic. There were more tears and heartbreak.

A 16 or 17 year old raw green youth was despatched into the unknown. He was a child who had to face the foreign unknown without a helping hand. A new and dreadful reality then dawned. That brother or sister was gone forever. A new form of death had entered into our being. A hole had been created in our family and community. Our small community of seven houses eventually emptied completely. Our great Republic forced them out in tens of thousands. They travelled in cattle boats, stayed in doss houses, queued in the early morning frost for a chance of a job and were paid in pubs. They laid the sewers, built the roads and houses, drove the buses and, as nurses, cared for the sick. Most came back when they could afford it. They all yearned for home.

It is estimated that this tranche of enforced migrants numbered 800,000 persons. It is also estimated that they sent home €3.5 billion in present values. I was a beneficiary of their generosity and kindness and of their not forgetting us — the ones at home. We bought clothes, shoes, food and books and paid school fees with the money they sent home. It allowed us to break out of the black hole of poverty. It broke the damned cycle of poverty and ignorance, but our hearts broke because of their absence. Tonight in our national Parliament, I thank them on behalf of the very many they did not forget. I am ashamed it has taken me so long to do so and I am resolved that we will now remember them and do so in a meaningful way.

The ways of assisting the emigrants are set out clearly in the report of the task force on policy regarding emigrants, Ireland and the Irish Abroad. Under the heading "Action Plan to Meet these Objectives", the following points are listed regarding services to the Irish abroad:

— The promotion of increased co-operation between statutory and voluntary agencies in Ireland and overseas, and the Irish abroad;

— The allocation of increased financial assistance to voluntary agencies and programmes abroad which provide welfare services to Irish people who are vulnerable or excluded

— The provision of financial assistance towards the cost of Irish community, cultural and sporting activities abroad where these help people to express the Irish dimension of their identity

— The commissioning of a study to identify the potential of the Internet and to build a communications hub to assist the Irish at home and abroad

— The establishment of an awards scheme to recognise exceptional or distinguished service by Irish people abroad

The plan also lists recommendations regarding services to returning emigrants, to which Deputy Cowley referred.

The last point listed under the heading "Structures and Resources" states: "A significant increase in the level of official funding for emigrant services. A figure of €18 million is proposed for 2003 building to €34 million in 2005".

Given the existence of the action plan, we no longer have the excuse of flailing about not knowing what to do. The report gives us a clear roadmap stating what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how it should be done and the money required. This year, €18 million was to be provided, which is to grow to €34 million by 2005. However, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, as a member of a Government awash with money, ignored the report after having previously accepted it and provided a miserable €4 million, although the report states that an initial sum of €18 million should be provided. For clear ideological reasons, he has set other priorities and provided only a quarter of the target sum. I demand on behalf of those affected that the Minister honour his pledge and do so now.

We must acknowledge the social, economic and political success of many who were forced to emigrate, as well as their efforts, in spite of minimal assistance, to provide for the less well off among them. I am aware of the huge efforts required to provide a day centre for old Irish emigrants in Coventry. I praise the work of Safe Home Ireland and of Deputy Cowley and his volunteers, who do a great job but who could do so much more if given the resources.

We forced and starved our young people out of this Republic with nothing except cardboard suitcases. Now we are leaving them old, homeless and alone, to be buried as paupers in cardboard coffins. We have the resources to address this. We also have the roadmap, and when we implement it we can then call ourselves a Republic.

I thank all my colleagues in the House who supported this motion. We have just heard from Deputy Stagg what poverty, in all its raw brutality, was like in this State in the years in question. I regret that certain contributions made by Members on the opposite side of the House, some of which were superficial and trivial, showed no appreciation, understanding, sense of history or knowledge of how we got from there to here.

Last night, Deputy Michael D. Higgins sought to trace some of the literature pertaining to the history of emigration from Ireland and to spell out the plight of so many of our young women who left to do menial tasks in Britain, the United States and elsewhere. Deputy Mulcahy described his contribution as a bitter speech. If this is his diagnosis——

——I am glad he is a lawyer and not a doctor. I tried to focus on the plight of the Irish men we shipped out ill-prepared and with a low level of formal education to equip them for the new environment they were entering.

I said last night that there are no votes in this for the Labour Party. Sadly, the people in question do not have a vote. However, it is a matter of social justice. The purpose of this debate was to make substantial progress towards the implementation of the recommendations of the task force and, in the process, to make some recompense to those we shipped out of the country in the 1950s and 1960s in particular.

What did we get for this debate? We got untypically soothing words from the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He chided us for the emotional tone of the debate. However, the subject is an emotional one for many in this House who were not reared with silver spoons in their mouths. I regret that the third generation of Fianna Fáil has grown a long way from its roots. They will not come into the House and tear themselves away from "Fair City" or "Home and Away" or from talking to their stockbrokers on their mobile phones — they have grown a long way from the men with no arses in their trousers who came in here at the time of the failed economic entity about which we are talking.

The Minister's carefully chosen, soothing remarks were in stark contrast to the crass bluster we heard from the Minister of State, Deputy Treacy, who is so long concealing his native intelligence behind the rhetoric of partisan bluster that he makes no contribution to a debate such as this. It is a shame that somebody in the junior ministerial ranks, such as the Minister of State, Deputy Kitt, is not given this portfolio by the Taoiseach to seek to implement the recommendations of the report.

Consider last night's statements by the Minister, from whom I expected more. I have gone on public record to express my regard for his abilities, which contrast with those of some of his more pedestrian colleagues. It is a love that, so far, has gone unrequited. This is a poverty with which I will have to live. Last night the Minister chided us for the emotion of the debate and stated: "I recognise that the experience of emigration has not been a success for everyone." If ever there was an understated contribution to a debate of this enormity, that was it. In his speech he admitted that we did too little, but he said he hoped there might be some help through savings in his Department later in the year. Therefore, we will scrounge around for a few quid left in the bottom drawer in Iveagh House and throw it at the people we shipped out of the country in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

Deputy Mulcahy might protest about these statements but he does not even know what I am talking about. He should stay out of the debate.

We are wondering what Deputy Rabbitte did in Government.

The Deputy should stay out of the debate. He does not even know what——

Allow Deputy Rabbitte, without interruption.

Perhaps he could talk about his own record for a change.

Deputy Mulcahy, allow Deputy Rabbitte.

I was especially concerned about the Minister for Foreign Affairs from whom I expected more. I was especially disappointed by the comment in his contribution last night which went to the heart of the matter. On the recommendation that an agency abroad for the Irish be established, he said:

I would not exclude the establishment of such an agency in the future. However, the best and most effective way of using scarce funds is through the recognised and experienced voluntary agencies in the front line.

That is effectively a dismissal of the central recommendation of the report, it will clearly not be done. I accept that there are excellent people and agencies working with emigrants in London, other British cities and other countries and I accept the good work done by the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants.

I also accept, however, the disappointment of Fr. Paul Byrne, director of the commission, when he said on "Prime Time" that he will never forget the day after the budget when the senior civil servant in the Department told him they did not get a red cent. He described it as a failure to change the official mindset and that it needed a paradigm shift. He said it is a problem of ideology and that the current one is incapable of admitting that we have an entire generation of forgotten people to whom we have thrown crumbs. We established an expert group which made focused recommendations that would cost a modest €18 million but we cannot even respond to them. The DIRT report on dormant funds alone produced £50 million but all we can say to our immigrants is that there might be some savings in the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is not good enough.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 56.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Curran, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O'Connor, Charlie.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Flynn, Noel.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Malley, Fiona.
  • O'Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowley, Jerry.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Stagg and Durkan.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 56.

  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Curran, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O'Connor, Charlie.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Liz.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Donovan, Denis.
  • O'Flynn, Noel.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Malley, Fiona.
  • O'Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Cowley, Jerry.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Stagg and Durkan.
Question declared carried.