By Irish Echo Staff
An international group of parliamentarians with Irish connections has gathered in Dublin for the first-ever Global Irish Parliamentarians’ Forum.
The forum is aimed at fostering Ireland’s relationship with its diaspora by bringing together Irish-connected political representatives who serve in national parliaments and state assemblies in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France and the UK.
The U.S. was represented at the gathering by Representative Richie Neal from Massachusetts and Brendan Boyle from Pennsylvania.
Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan invited the parliamentarians to the forum, which emerged from Ireland’s recently unveiled diaspora policy.
The 44 parliamentarians also met with Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan at Iveagh House, the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to brief them on recent economic developments in Ireland.
Flanagan, who is also trade minister said his experience as minister had made it clear that friends of Ireland overseas, including parliamentarians, could be of great assistance to Irish companies seeking to do business overseas.
“At this politically sensitive time in Northern Ireland, I am also pleased to welcome some noted friends of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, such as Congressman Richie Neal, to Dublin,” Flanagan said of the senior House Democrat.
Following their meeting with Minister Flanagan, the group visited Leinster House for a special session in the Dáil chamber chaired by the Leas Ceann Comhairle (deputy speaker).
During the session the visitors were addressed by Tánaiste Joan Burton, and Minister Deenihan.
Speaking in advance of the visit, Minister Jimmy Deenihan, TD, said: “Over successive generations, members of the Irish diaspora elected to overseas parliaments and assemblies have been active spokespersons and advocates for Irish communities overseas. By maintaining close ties to their heritage, they ensured the Irish voice was heard in local, regional and national political systems around the world,” said Deenihan in advance of the forum.
“The forum will foster Ireland’s relationship with its diaspora by bringing together Irish-connected political representatives who serve in national parliaments and state assemblies in Australia, Canada, France, the UK and the USA. Among the group is Congressman Brendan Boyle – the only member of the US House of Representatives with an Irish born parent.
“I am delighted to welcome such a significant number of parliamentarians to Dublin and am excited by the possibilities such a gathering affords. I was overwhelmed by the positive response to my invitation and I am confident that this forum will further strengthen the bonds these elected officials feel with Ireland.
“This forum will allow us to brief the parliamentarians on the government’s ambitious plans to commemorate 1916, including the many events which will take place around the world.”
During their visit the parliamentarians took time to view the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin and the GAA Museum in Croke Park.
The visitors will also visited the Stephenstown Pond nature park in Dundalk which is supported by the International Fund for Ireland which is itself supported by the countries they represented.