THE PUBLICATION of Ireland’s new Programme for a Partnership Government fails to include any mention of the Irish in Britain or any other country in the world.
Revealed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on May 11, the 155-page document outlines the priorities for the new look government – which “comprises Fine Gael, members of the Independent Alliance, and a number of other independent TDs, working together”.
The programme, which the Taoiseach claims will support a “fairer society”, highlights key areas the Government plans to address over the next five years, including housing, health, jobs and community issues.
“A fair society must lean on a strong economy. But that strong economy will work primarily to create a fair and compassionate society which people can feel part of and proud of, a society for everyone, at every stage of their lives,” it says.
However nowhere in the lengthy article are the terms Diaspora or Irish abroad to be found.
Neither is there mention of any new Minister for the Diaspora, a role created in 2014 with the appointment of Jimmy Deenihan, who lost his seat as TD for Kerry North-West Limerick in the recent elections.
The exclusion of the Irish abroad from the programme has not gone unnoticed among the Irish community in Britain.
Nottingham-based Gerry Molumby, a long-term campaigner for votes for the Irish abroad and creator of the Ireland and its Diaspora blog, told The Irish Post: “I am greatly disappointed by this programme, as there was is no mention in any specific terms to the Irish Diaspora and in particular the ongoing issue of votes for the Irish abroad.”
He explained: “All the main parties promised in their general election manifestoes to the principle of offering a vote to the Irish abroad in future presidential elections.
“The Oireachtas’ own decision in December was to endeavour to comply with European good practice and legislation on preventing the continued disfranchisement of the Irish abroad from voting – hence my surprise that this trajectory appears to have reduced in priority.”
The lack of attention given to Diaspora matters in the new government document also means that despite the 32nd Dáil now being in place, there remains no clarity as to what the community in Britain can expect from those in power over the next five years.
There has been no information shared regarding the position of Minister for the Diaspora, and whether this will still exist in the newly formed government, although on Monday, when contacted by The Irish Post, a government spokesperson confirmed we can expect an announcement “later this week”.
There has also been no confirmation of the continuation of existing schemes relating to the Irish in Britain, such as grants made under the Emigrant Support Programme.
The ongoing campaign for votes for the Irish abroad, which has been the subject of many discussions between Irish community members in Britain and representatives of the Irish government over recent years, now too may hang in the balance.
“For me, no mention of a new Minister for the Diaspora is indicative of a setback,” Mr Molumby admits.
“I do hope this is not going to be reflected in the Emigrant Support Programme, the Global Forums and other initiatives.”
He added: “All this is a bit rich coming in the week that Irish government ministers are coming to Britain to encourage the Irish in Britain to vote to stay in the European Union – but yet do not offer them any representation in Ireland.”
Mr Molumby’s sentiments were echoed from within Ireland this week.
Sinn Féin’s Diaspora Spokesperson Trevor Ó Clochartaigh claims the lack of attention to the Irish abroad in the Programme for a Partnership Government is “disrespectful”.
“The Irish Diaspora have long been neglected by successive Governments, but the programme published adds insult to injury by omitting to even mention them,” he said.
“This shows a complete lack of respect for the millions of Irish living abroad and shows that they are not a priority for the incoming administration.
“There is no mention of representation for the Diaspora in our parliament and no mention of implementing the recommendation of the Constitutional Convention in relation to a referendum on voting rights for the Irish abroad. The programme gives no indication of increased support for the Irish abroad or action to help the undocumented Irish either.”
He added: “It appears that after almost two months of discussions between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the spectrum of Independents, that Diaspora issues didn’t even feature, or worse again – if they did, that they weren’t considered important enough for inclusion in the programme for Government. That is totally disrespectful.”
The Irish Post put these concerns to the Irish government this week.
A spokesperson said: “The Government remains completely committed to expanding our links with the Diaspora. The Taoiseach is travelling to Washington DC this week launching commemoration initiatives there, further developing links with the Irish Diaspora.”
Regarding the appointment of a new Diaspora Minister, they added: “The new Ministers of State have not been announced yet so it is not possible to speculate on this at this point. It is expected that the announcement will take place later this week.”