Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ireland’s Engagement with the Diaspora - Suggestions

Review of Ireland’s Engagement with the Diaspora

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recently completed a review of Diaspora policy to examine all elements of engagement with the Irish abroad.

The Department invited those at home and abroad who are interested in and affected by issues of emigration, and the wider questions of engagement with the Diaspora, to contribute their views to the review.

Please find below my Submission to the Irish Abroad Unit, Department of Foreign Affairs


Leaving Ireland you lose something of yourself, perhaps it is the deep sadness experienced in that parting with your people, your land, your own place. Often this is only felt in those intense moments of alone, out amongst strangers who sometimes have very little regard for their own people; never mind us, the immigrant.

As a person who left Ireland for the first time in 1977 I still remember this sense of loss acutely.

As a father with both daughters in Australia I am not alone in feeling a sense of frustration at the ever increasing ineptitude of the political class. In my own view they are now at the terminus of their gravy train and it it past time to get off.

This consultation by the Department is most welcome and I believe that all of us can serve our family, friends and relations abroad best by engaging positively with Government North and South.  There is consensus that there is an urgent need for policy modification and new policy introduction.

It is imperative that the Governments and Departments act decisively. 

Action / Suggestion Points

There will most likely be a degree of repetition in comments / ideas put forward, nonetheless I would like to make the following suggestions;-

1. Create a dedicated Minister / and Department for the Diaspora

Comment: it is not about squeezing a few Euro out of a few people being dragged back to Ireland reluctantly. It is about recognising that the cultural, artistic and spiritual psyche of the island lies in our engagement with and appreciation of those outside Ireland. The Diaspora are as much a part of Ireland as those of us who remain behind.

2. Create the post of Diaspora attaché, in sufficient numbers and deployed this year in geographic areas that reflect the distribution of the global Irish as indicated in Appendix 1.

Comment: the post of Diaspora Attaché could be created more or less immediately within DFA. These Diaspora Attachés would effectively become the cadre of the new Department of the Diaspora.

3. Produce a definitive / official analysis of the global distribution of the Diaspora to provide for detailed academic research and to guide ongoing policy decisions.

4. Produce real time quarterly data on emigrants

5. Create a number of Action Teams focusing on emigrants of differing periods, for example;-
Action Team A: those who have left in the last 5/10 years
Action Team B: those who have left in the last 10/20 years
Action Team C: those who have left in the last 20/40 years
Action Team D: those who have left in the last 40/60 years
Action Team E: those who have left in the last 60/100 years
Action Team F: those who have left in the last 100+ years

Each team’s responsibility would be engagement with the Diaspora of the period in the most appropriate manner.

6. Create Action Teams split by age segmentation. The objective being to develop ‘help/intervention cases’ from the characteristics of emigrants by age distribution. For example this may well be served best by using the mediums of sport, music, art, literature, language as common bonds that remain long past the date of leaving.

7. Create a global award system for those proactively participating in Diaspora entities worldwide to the betterment of their fellow emigrant and the global Irish. As an example these could be named 'The Boru Awards' and would essentially be our global cultural celebration of all things Irish.

8. Allow the Irish abroad to vote on the simple premise if you hold a current Irish passport you are eligible to vote.
Comment: the length of time it is taking to resolve this issue and indeed the whole manner of treating those who have left as no longer being of Ireland is a disgrace and needs changed immediately.

9. Use real world technology to achieve improved contact and collaboration with and among the Diaspora.
Comment: a cursory look at the use figures for Gmail, Google Apps for Business, G+, Facebook, Paypal, EBay, Twitter, Pinterest will show that each of these companies deal with billions of pieces of data daily

NOTE: It would be crucial that any of the crowd involved in the electronic voting debacle are not allowed near this.

10. Create an annual ‘Ideas for Ireland Competition’ operated at club, school, college, university and open levels to garner ideas from our entire tribe worldwide.


My own personal experience having worked and travelled all over the world is that my fellow Irish are always there with a helping hand - but you have to be able to find them and ask nicely.

One of the most encouraging things about technology is the ease of communication that it brings.  We can now find them.!

Looking at this on a wider front Google or Facebook or Twitter could set up a Irish community for 5 or 6 million in the while of an afternoon and add the other 60 odd million the next day.

We could all vote on everything by teatime, plus we could post photos of each of us at our tea. We could share our own detailed analysis with friends on our mobile, ipad, Chromebook, tv or even our ‘Glasses’.

There is no longer any technological impediment to real time data, real time voting or opinion seeking and global connectivity with many millions of the Diaspora.

What remains is the political will and foresight.

Des Donnelly,
Co Tyrone.

Ps: I am happy to engage in dialogue with anyone on this subject and to elaborate on any of the suggestions made here, the contact form here would be the ideal way to do.

Appendix 1 – the Global Irish