19TH MARCH 2007
Bishop Hegarty thanks SIA supporters and launches website for ‘undocumented’
On behalf of the Irish Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants, the Bishop of Derry, Bishop Séamus Hegarty, today thanked all those who have supported the Bishops’ “Supporting Irish Abroad” (SIA) awareness campaign over the last three years. Each year this campaign has focused on pastorally supporting Irish emigrants in different ways. Bishop Hegarty was speaking at the launch of a website dedicated to helping the “undocumented Irish” currently based in the United States.
Bishop Hegarty said: “On behalf of those who have benefited from the SIA campaign, my deepest appreciation is reserved for those members of the Irish Church who supported our campaign since its inception in 2004. Specifically, I wish to acknowledge:
* the campaign’s success in highlighting the vulnerability migrants and for keeping the issue on the public policy agenda;
* the generosity of the Irish people, details of which are available on www.catholicbishops.ie/specialfeatures/sia;
* the extraordinary level of hard work and commitment undertaken by our agencies and associates abroad; and,
* the role of the Government of Ireland which has both increased its resources and commitment to our diaspora.
“When we launched the SIA awareness campaign in 2004 we could not have imagined that by 2007 Government funding for emigrant services would amount to €15.2 million. This rise is most welcome. SIA funding, which has raised €1,581,716.76 in total, is used to identify projects which may not now be receiving support but which are worthy of support. Over 50% of the monies received over the last three years have been allocated. For further details on the projects that we are supporting please log on to www.catholicbishops.ie/specialfeatures/sia. We shall continue to distribute the funds by targeting those most in need. When all the money is allocated, the SIA campaign will be evaluated in terms of its expenditure and effectiveness.”
Bishop Hegarty continued: “I have visited pastoral outreach centres for Irish emigrants and have met with many beneficiaries of this fund. Because of the SIA campaign there have been real improvements in the pastoral welfare and well being of so many Irish emigrants. It is always deeply moving when I hear the outcomes arising from this generosity. In London, for example, we minister to people as they face their last days in this world. They have no one else. This is a challenging ministry for those involved in it – but it is also really necessary. Another example of the deep appreciation of the care received involved a religious Sister who told me of a young Irish man she found living on the streets. The support she gave him resulted in him getting his life back together and this involved him returning home to Ireland. Subsequently he sent her £20 from his first pay packet! But our work continues: we are continuing to seek out older and vulnerable Irish in Britain and elsewhere. Currently, we are focusing our attention on parishes in Britain which have a high percentage of elderly Irish living in them.”
Referring to the plight of the ‘Undocumented Irish’ in the USA, Bishop Hegarty announced the launch of the updated Irish Apostolate website: www.usairish.org. Bishop Hegarty said: “This website aims to provide up-to-date analysis to ensure that Irish people will have access to information on the promised and greatly hoped for legislative reforms for immigrants living in the US. I would encourage anyone with an interest in this very important issue to sign up for our monthly newsletter available on www.usairish.org. Our own Director of the Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants, Fr Alan Hilliard, attended the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform organised rally in Washington DC last week. The purpose of the rally was to call for immigration reform on behalf of the ‘undocumented’ Irish in the United States. It is clear that more work is needed to ensure that the ‘undocumented’ receive a comprehensive reform package. We should continue to pray for such an outcome.”
Bishop Hegarty said, “While a lot of emotion surrounds Irish emigration, we must be mindful that migration, in itself, is a structural phenomenon of today’s world. As the bishops and Irish Church marks 50 years of service to Irish emigrants in Britain, we must continue to rise to the challenge to be at the service of ‘people on the move’.”
Referring to the changing nature of migration in Ireland, Bishop Hegarty said: “the Bishops’ Commission for Emigrants is actively serving the needs of those who now travel to our shores. It is our conviction that policies or legislation which does not acknowledge the human dignity of the migrant will create untold problems for society into the future. Our challenge for today, therefore, is to build policies on firm foundations – policies which offer migrants and their families’ hope-filled futures. Such an approach should go hand-in-hand with the establishment of education policies and initiatives to support our local communities in preparing to ‘welcome the stranger’.”
Martin Long Director of Communications 086 172 7678 or (01) 505 3010
Fr Alan Hilliard, Director, Irish Commission for Emigrants 087 747 7110
NOTES TO EDITORS
* The acronym SIA is a Gaelic word meaning ‘longer’ or ‘farther’. The objective of the SIA campaign has been to raise awareness of our responsibility – as individuals and as a nation – to our Irish people abroad especially those who have fallen on hard times. Please a brief summary of projects that have benefited from SIA funding by clicking the access link “SIA Expenditure” on the website www.catholicbishops.ie/specialfeatures/sia
* The SIA campaign is the responsibility of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants (IECE) which was established by the Irish bishops in 1957 to co-ordinate support and pastoral care for the many Irish people travelling to work and live in the UK. In 2004, Bishop Séamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry and chair of the IECE, launched the three year SIA awareness and fund raising campaign at a function in the Irish Centre, Camden Town, in London.
* The 2004 – 2006 themes of the SIA awareness campaign were:
* for 2004 the theme was: ‘Emigrants built the Ireland we enjoy today – Don’t forget them’;
* the 2005 campaign focus was to support those living furtive lives because of their undocumented status;
* in 2006 the challenge was to keep in contact with (by mail, telephone or by visiting) a relative or friend who has either long since – or recently – emigrated from Ireland to live abroad.
* The IECE, based in Maynooth, Co Kildare, has outreach (chaplaincy) services in the UK; Germany; the USA (New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia); and, Australia. The Irish Apostolate is the service provided by the Irish and American Catholic Bishops to support the pastoral needs of Irish immigrants in the United States. Please see www.usairish.org