Ireland’s Diaspora Minister Ciaran Cannon has called out to the Irish diaspora with an inspiring and optimistic new year’s message.
Mr Cannon said: “Let’s find a way to harness the strength of a worldwide community of 70m people.”
He describes how he has witnessed first-hand the reach and breadth of Irish diaspora communities, from the skyscrapers of America to the villages of Africa.
He also talks about how the government intends to engage with and provide support to the diaspora.
Mr Cannon said: “The policy commits to carrying out this work under five distinct headings: support, connect, facilitate, recognise and evolve.
“Following on from the great strides that have been made since 2015, as Minister I have my eyes firmly on how we can evolve the diaspora policy so that we can support the ever more diverse groups that make up our seventy million strong global Irish nation.
“To me there are two clear areas that I want to see evolved further – the use of new and innovative technologies; and the bridging of our global diaspora engagement with our considerable development work and broader connections in Africa and Asia.
Mr Cannon sees social media and technological advances as being key tools in engaging with the Irish diaspora.
He said: “I see huge potential to improve how we use technology to support and engage our people abroad. I see opportunities to not only increase connections with Ireland but to also increase connections across and within diaspora communities. This is already the case in many of the newer diaspora locations such as the Gulf States, Canada and Australia.
“Here you will find some of the most mobile and connected emigrants in the world who are using social media and other technology to stay in touch with each other and Ireland – and not only consuming and experiencing Irish culture but also increasingly contributing to it.
“I want to harness this type of innovation and roll it out across our work with all our diaspora communities and I have made extending our reach a priority for our diplomats in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I have set myself and my officials a challenge to increase the @GlobalIrish Twitter account from ten thousand followers to one million.
“This is already happening through Ireland’s network of Embassies and Consulates who are ever more connecting through social media. In conjunction with the social media accounts of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, we now reach over three hundred thousand people. An impressive number, but just the tip of the iceberg. This communication is not the end in itself but instead I believe its offers a gateway for people to access a range of services and supports that they may not have known were out there.”
Mr Cannon also spoke with pride about Ireland’s international development programme which provides frontline support to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
He said: “I see in this work a huge potential to harness the diaspora for good, to share lessons learned, to match up skilled people with organisations that need them and to augment the already considerable development and aid work which Ireland supports.
“I believe that there is a cohort of our diaspora who have the experience and talent that is needed to sustain our development work.
“There are therefore opportunities to work smarter in a manner that bridges diaspora engagement with development work. I think that again technology has an important role to play in this through identifying and developing networks where people can assist in the development of communities less fortunate than ours.
Mr Cannon said that the government intends to hold a referendum on whether Irish citizens living abroad should be allowed a vote in the country’s presidential elections.
He said: “I believe that the time is also right to give something back to our diaspora and to recognise the contribution they have made to the country. An essential element of this will be to give them a voice in choosing our President, a President for the global Irish nation.
“In March of this year the Government therefore decided that a referendum should be held to amend the constitution to allow Irish citizens resident outside the State, including in Northern Ireland, to vote in Irish presidential elections. It is envisioned that this referendum will take place in June 2019 and I see this as a way to greater develop our two way connection with our citizens abroad through recognising and rewarding the contributions that our diaspora has made to this country.
“It is time to move our thinking on, to develop a real sense of a truly Global Irish nation, to reflect the ever increasing mobility and connectedness of all of our people, no matter where they are in the world.
“In this century when conversations will happen seamlessly, instantaneously and across great distances, we will finally be unshackled from the physical boundaries of geography.
That’s when our work in building a deeply connected Global Irish community will reap the kind of dividends that our ancestors could never have envisaged.”
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling