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Celebrating diversity and the Emigrant Support Programme in the Irish government’s new Diaspora Strategy

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On 18 November, the Irish government published its new Diaspora Strategy for 2020–2025. Providing welfare support for the diaspora through the Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) remains a top priority, but the strategy also recognises and celebrates the diversity and breadth of the diaspora today. We take a closer look below.

  • ESP recipients meet to discuss support for projects within the Irish community in Britain, in Leeds Irish Centre, January 2020
    ESP recipients meet to discuss support for projects within the Irish community in Britain, in Leeds Irish Centre, January 2020

Launched online by Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister of State Colm Brophy, the new Diaspora Strategy sets out how the Irish government will support and engage with its diaspora over the next five years.

The strategy outlines five priority areas that inform its vision: people, values, prosperity, culture and influence. Threaded throughout are celebrating the diversity of the diaspora, building networks (of businesses, cultural organisations, women’s groups and youth groups), connecting with the next generation and reaching out to those who left Ireland in emergency circumstances – such as from anti–LGBTQI discrimination or those who experienced institutional abuse.

The document was informed by the consultation events and submissions in 2019. You can read our submission here. We are pleased to see a number of our recommendations included, such as recognising the diversity of today’s diaspora, the importance of rebuilding relationships with the survivors of institutional abuse and other underrepresented groups, expanding multi–annual funding and evolving the ESP, and intergenerational engagement.

Engaging with a diverse diaspora

In their online addresses, both the Taoiseach and Minister Brophy recognised the changes that have taken place in the diaspora in recent years and we are glad to see this acknowledged with some new initiatives for engagement. This includes outreach with groups that have been underrepresented, such as Travellers, LGBTQI groups and those from a mixed heritage. It also includes promotion of “inclusive events for Irish diaspora communities that are welcoming of and respectful towards non–Irish family members or members of local communities that may wish to participate”.

A referendum on voting rights for the Irish abroad in presidential elections will still be held. Other avenues for improving engagement with the diaspora in the strategy include expanding digital outreach with a single digital platform providing content and resources. We look forward to finding out more about this initiative.

St Brigid's Day at the EmbassyAfter the Embassy in London has made the festival a key part in its events calendar, the Irish community in Britain will be pleased to see St Brigid’s Day celebrations of the talent and creativity of Irish women given official recognition in the strategy.

Another policy announced is to introduce ceremonies to welcome new citizens who are receiving Foreign Birth Registration certificates outside of Ireland. Also included are ways in which the next generation of the diaspora can work and study in Ireland, and addressing the barriers facing emigrants returning to Ireland.

A notable inclusion is to promote engagement with the ‘reverse’ diaspora, those who have studied, worked or lived in Ireland but have since left, as well as the ‘affinity’ diaspora, those who feel a strong connection and appreciation of Ireland.

Emigrant Support Programme

The ESP remains the first priority of the Diaspora Strategy and this is reflected in the evolution of the programme detailed in the implementation section. This includes:

  • Introducing additional multiannual funding initiatives (which Irish in Britain encouraged in its consultation submission)
  • Applying a gender, youth and diversity lens to ESP applications
  • Allocating resources for initiatives that aim to support women’s empowerment and youth engagement among the diaspora
  • Encouraging joint applications from organisations to foster greater cooperation – this may have been inspired by the collaborative projects in Britain in response to the Covid pandemic, but also as part of the Irish government’s Shared Island initiative which promotes cross–border and all–island projects.

Irish in Britain welcomes the new Diaspora Strategy which evidences meaningful engagement with the consultation process and our own recommendations taken from our experience of working with over 100 member organisations. We are glad to see proposals for evolving the ESP and the central emphasis on celebrating a diverse diaspora. While more concise than the 2015 strategy, it promises several new and exciting initiatives on which we look forward to collaborating with the Department of Foreign Affairs. 

We are confident that this strategy contains the necessary vision to support the diaspora in Britain in facing the challenges of providing welfare support during and after the pandemic, of Brexit and of planning for the future.

You can read the Diaspora Strategy 2020–2025 here.