On the ball: The Director General of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Paraic Duffy, and Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, in Dublin Castle today for the start of first ever Global Irish Civic Forum. Photocall.
By Ray O’Hanlon
They have traveled to Dublin from all over the U.S. and Canada.
And from all over the rest of the world.
They are convening in Dublin Castle for the very first Global Irish Civic Forum.
Initially it was anticipated that the forum would attract between 90 and 100 participants.
But 185 representatives from 17 countries have turned up.
So the two day gathering qualifies as global, as a forum, as Irish, and civic.
“We even have someone who has travelled all the way from New Zealand just to be here,” said co-host, Irish Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan.
“Whether you travelled from Nairobi, Newfoundland or Naas, the fact that so many of you have invested so much time and energy just to participate is a reflection of the importance of what we are trying to do and your commitment to that cause. So, thank you. We sincerely appreciate it,” Deenihan told all those assemble in his opening remarks.
Deenihan, almost a year in his current job, said it was timely and appropriate to take stock of this past year and perhaps pose a few challenges for the year ahead.
“In essence, if I was asked to sum up my first year in office, I would say the Irish diaspora landscape has changed. How Ireland engages with its diaspora has changed. How our diaspora engage with us has changed. And, significantly, how our diaspora engage with each other has changed.”
Deenihan told the forum that the “global Irish family” could stand together on issues, more linked than ever before.
And he continued in part: We wanted to bring you all together as, while we already have relationships with most of the people in this room, we see huge potential for sharing of your experiences and best practice among and between you.
“Alongside building a network of Irish community practitioners, there is of course another purpose for this event. The meeting in itself has value, in terms of bringing people together and sharing experiences, but this meeting is also part of the policy process. It is a listening and learning process for us. And, a policy shaping process for you.
“We are very clear in the diaspora policy – that we fully appreciate the need to evolve our practice to respond to the needs of Irish communities which themselves are constantly in flux.
“We are open to new ideas and new ways of working. So, this event is something much bigger than just two days of networking and building relationships for us.
“This conversation, and the influence you have, reflects that the government takes your views seriously and welcomes your input. I know, looking at the people in this room, I do not need to say this, but please do use this opportunity to its fullest.
The forum program, according to the minister, includes discussions on addressing the challenges facing new emigrants; protecting and promoting Irish identity and heritage; reaching out to Irish citizens overseas; promoting positive mental health, and, supporting those who wish to return to Ireland.
But do not feel constrained,” he said.
“There is scope within the panels to raise a range of issues and ideas,” he said.
“Of course, the cornerstone of the government’s commitment to the diaspora, the Emigrant Support Program, will remain. The program, which is focused on supporting the Irish overseas to make the best lives possible in their countries of residence, has provided over 125 million euro of funding since it was established in 2004.
“But, your very presence here today shows how we have progressed from just having a funding relationship to working in partnership, and that too is a milestone that should be noted.
The Irish community have clearly articulated a desire to remain connected to and involved in Irish life. How this actually happens is often through organizations like yours,” Deenihan said.