Thursday, 2 May 2013

Questions (49)

Joe McHugh


49. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide an update on his efforts to engage with Irish citizens who work and reside abroad. [20906/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Maintaining and strengthening links with Irish communities overseas has always been a key objective of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as demonstrated by its inclusion in the high level goals set out in the Department’s 2011 – 2014 Strategy Statement. Following the Report of the Task Force on Policy Regarding Emigrants of 2002, the Irish Abroad Unit was established in 2004 to address the needs of our most vulnerable emigrants abroad and to provide greater strategic direction to the Government’s engagement with the Diaspora.

In partnership with our Missions abroad, the Unit works to support the most vulnerable of our emigrants, pursue appropriate legal avenues for emigration, support Irish immigration centres and new arrivals, address issues which facilitate assimilation in new home, manage our diaspora recognition programmes and engage the key influencers and leverage their experience and expertise as we work towards economic recovery.

Today, our Diaspora engagement policy has two key strands. First, through the Emigrant Support Programme, we work with almost 200 Irish community organisations in over 20 countries to provide support to Irish emigrants. Since 2004, Irish groups ranging from those providing front line services to those most at need including the elderly, isolated, vulnerable and new arrivals to those working in the culture and heritage space have received grants of over €104 million under the Programme. Details of all grant recipients since 2006 can be found on my Department’s website at I am pleased that, despite the difficult financial situation we face, the Government has maintained the 2013 funding for the ESP at €11.59 million, the same level as 2012. In addition to supporting the most vulnerable of our diaspora, we have in recent years enhanced our engagement with communities dealing with large numbers of new emigrants, particularly, in Australia and Canada. In Canada, we support the new Irish Canadian Immigration Centre in Toronto, which I opened during my visit to Toronto in March 2012, while in Australia, the main welfare bureaus in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane all secured additional funding in 2012. Projects aimed at supporting the needs of new emigrants will be the focus of the 2013 programme which has just closed.

The second element of our policy is focussed around the work of the Global Irish Network, a group of over 300 of the most influential Irish connected business figures drawn from 40 countries. Over the past three years, the Network has proved particularly effective in the following areas: as a source of structured advice from key players in priority markets, sectors and within multinational companies; the facilitation of high level access to decision makers in major corporations for the Government and Irish companies; a direct role in job creation through high level FDI Forums (such as the President Clinton “Invest in Ireland” roundtable n February, 2012), formal involvement in developing trade missions and Connect Ireland; over 100 members have signed up to support exporters under the Global Irish Contacts Programme providing expertise in 32 markets across 14 sectors; support and assistance with our work to build a strong international reputation; and participation in a number of new initiatives including the Gathering, the Farmleigh Fellowship, the Irish Technology Leadership Group and within the agri-food sector.

In addition to the above programmes, the Department also works closely with our missions in the United States to address the position of the undocumented Irish and to reform our migration arrangements with the US and manages our diaspora recognition programmes such as the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad and the Certificate of Irish Heritage.