16 APRIL 2004
FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE BISHOPS’ COMMISSION
FOR EMIGRANTS TO RECEIVE
THE JAMES LARKIN JUSTICE AWARD
The former director of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants (IECE),
Fr Paul Byrne, will be presented with the James Larkin Justice Award at this
weekend’s Labour Party conference in the RDS. The party leader, Deputy Pat
Rabbitte, will present the award to Fr Byrne after 7pm on Saturday April 17
in the Library of the R.D.S.
The award is presented at each Labour Party conference to someone who has
made an outstanding contribution in the area of justice or human rights. Fr
Byrne is being honoured for his continuing work to highlight the plight of
the marginalised Irish emigrants who ended up in Britain and elsewhere,
unemployed and living in poor and substandard housing or on the streets. Fr
Byrne has also campaigned for a coherent Government policy on the issue.
Fr Paul Byrne took up the directorship of the IECE in 1994. During his 9 years
with the IECE he strived to highlight the problems facing Irish emigrants
abroad, especially the young and the vulnerable. He also worked closely with
the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas (ICPO), helping to address the
needs of Irish prisoners abroad. He served as a member of the Government Task
Force on Emigration.
In October 2003 Fr Byrne retired as director of the IECE, but continues in
his efforts to campaign for the policies recommended in the Task Force Report
to be implemented by the government. He has up to recently chaired EAN (Emigrant
Advice Network) as well as acting as a trustee for the London Irish Centre.
He chairs the St. Stephen’s Green Trust and is a member of the Irish Funders
Commenting on the award to Fr Byrne, the Director of IECE Fr Alan Hilliard said:
“We are all very proud of Paul. Over the years he has worked hard for emigrants
on the ground in the UK. He put structures in place to ensure that Irish people
accessed housing and he put structures in place to assist those who had fallen
on hard times. Many in the UK and across the world feel he represents them well.
He is an energetic, enthusiastic campaigner for the rights of the marginalized.
I know he is saddened that the recommendations of the Task Force have not been
met with serious consideration. His voice needs to be heard. Paul speaks of
behalf of those who remain an ‘unconsidered’ part of our nation. It is so easy
to forget those who gave so much to us in the past. On behalf of all in the IECE,
thank you Paul, you deserve this recognition.”
Ms Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer 087 233 7797
Fr Alan Hilliard, Director, IECE 087 747 7110
Notes to Editors:
* A photograph of Fr Paul Byrne is available on request from the
Catholic Communications Office
* The ‘Jim Larkin Justice Award’ was introduced in 2003 to mark the
90th anniversary of the 1913 Lockout and is named after the trade
union leader and joint founder of the Labour Party. The award is
presented at each Labour Party National Conference to some person
who has made an outstanding contribution in the area of justice or
* The IECE was established in 1957 by the Irish Bishop’s to coordinate
a pastoral response to the need of our Irish Abroad. The main focus of
attention at that time was large number of Irish people who are travelling
to the U.K. ill prepared and with little support. In the eighties the
Commission focused on the large number of Irish who were travelling to
the U.S. and successfully set up a number of centres there. Recently the
Commission set up a centre in Sydney to minister to the needs of Irish
living ‘Down Under’.
* The IECE is committed to assisting all involved in the work of Emigration
and is firmly convinced that the Government’s Task Force findings need to
be implemented as a matter of urgency. Our emigrants have made a huge
contribution to our country. They deserve recognition and support.