A new plan that proposes funding to allow elderly emigrants to return to Ireland, and increasing the funding for services at home and abroad to care for elderly emigrants, has been unveiled in Dublin.
The report calls for setting up an independent agency for emigrants, to be called the Agency for Irish Abroad. It would be responsible for funding cultural and sporting activities abroad, as well as predeparture services, which would give advice and information to Irish people planning to work abroad.
Under the proposal, elderly emigrants would also be given an annual free vacation in Ireland.
The task force to examine the needs of the Irish living abroad was set up by Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen.
The report found that emigrants to Britain have suffered the most. Even in recent years, thousands of young Irish people, particularly young men, have ended up homeless on the streets of Britain. The task force says that those who want to return but cannot afford to do so should be facilitated.
This year only three million Euros will be spent on the Irish abroad. The task force wants that funding to be increased to 18 million Euros next year and 34 million Euros by 2005.
The report also highlights the contribution that emigrants, particularly those who emigrated to the U.S., have made to the Irish economy, through sending money home so that younger family members could be educated.
Meanwhile, one of Ireland’s leading historians, Tim Pat Coogan, has called for Irish emigrants to be given a vote in Irish elections. Most European Union countries allow their emigrants to vote in national elections, but Irish emigrants are being denied this right
“Our emigrants are a priceless resource,” he said. “Our approach to the Americans was to preach to them, telling them not to support the IRA. We then wanted them to use our national carder, Aer Lingus, to travel to Ireland at double the price of other airlines. When they got here, we expected them to buy Waterford Crystal and kiss the Blarney Stone and then to go back and we’d forget about them.” ♦