Government must establish “Agency for the Irish Abroad” – Hilliard

05 Dec 2003

Government must establish “Agency for the Irish Abroad” – Hilliard

The Irish Episcopal (Bishops’) Commission for Emigrants (IECE) has welcomed the €1m of funding in the Budget for emigrant services, but has warned that a formalised and co-ordinated approach is now required to service the needs of our Diaspora.

According to the Director of the IECE, Fr Alan Hilliard, “The Budget’s extra provision of €1m is a minimal Government response to the recommendations, published in August 2002, contained in the Report of the Task Force on Policy Regarding Emigrants.

“Although the Task Force’s recommendations in 2002 advised for an allocation of €18m for emigrant services to support Irish voluntary, social, cultural, educational and sporting bodies abroad, the IECE is grateful to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen TD, for securing €1m on budget day to support our Diaspora.”

Fr Hilliard continued, “However this funding is a start – but only a start. Ireland must give more than just lip service to our emigrants, they must feel supported. As emigration touches every Irish family, political will is now needed for results. The effects of post-war emigration are still with us. Let us not forget that over many years, Irish emigrants have demonstrated their commitment to this country in the form of remittances, and this income constituted a substantial part of our macroeconomic earnings in leaner days.

“In practical terms what is now required – and what does not exist – is the establishment of a dedicated “Agency for the Irish Abroad”* in order to co-ordinate services at home and abroad for our Diaspora. It is of particular concern to the IECE that the Irish abroad, especially those who are marginalised and vulnerable, are central to future planning and policy. The IECE will continue to lobby Government for the establishment of an Agency for Emigrants”.


– The Irish Episcopal (Bishops’) Commission for Emigrants is an agency of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and is based in Maynooth.

– *Recommendation 7.7 (p61) of the 2002 Report of the Task Force on Policy Regarding Emigrants, states that an: “Agency for the Irish Abroad be established under the aegis of the Department of Foreign Affairs to coordinate the provision of services to the Irish Abroad.”

– Article 2 of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, as amended by Referendum held following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, provides that: “It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with Irish people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.”

For further information please contact:

Martin Long 01 5053010 and 086 1727 678
Fr Alan Hilliard 01 5053055 and 087 747 7110