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    Irish Times carries report on Ean seminar

    By Noreen Bowden | December 3, 2007

    The Irish Times has published a report by migration correspondent Ruadhan Mac Cormaic on Ean’s AGM and seminar, which was held on Saturday. The text is as follows:

    Emigrant group calls for stronger ties with diaspora Ireland must develop ties with its diaspora that are driven by more than labour market needs, a conference has heard.

    Fr Alan Hilliard, chairman of the Emigrant Advice Network, told the organisation’s agm on Saturday that many states were realising their diaspora’s political and monetary power.

    “If Ireland is to be a leader in this area, we have a lot more work to do,” he said. “We have allowed circumstance to attract people back rather than actively strategise the involvement of people in their homeland.” Part of the problem was that, as with migration issues generally, the debate was too “labour-focused.”

    On the Unit for the Irish Abroad, a section of the Department of Foreign Affairs set up in 2004, Fr Hilliard expressed concern it “might be reduced to a bank teller with a purely monetary role dolling out money for anything ‘Oirish’ that coincides with visits of dignitaries or finds itself supporting some nice ideas that may have a business interest in the background.”

    With the collapse of comprehensive immigration reform in the US earlier this year, Fr Hilliard suggested the focus of the campaign on behalf of the undocumented Irish there should change. “Maybe we need not work the corridors of power in the US but engage in a campaign to educate people about the reality of our undocumented Irish in the United States.

    “The latest squall stimulated by Trina Vargo shows the need to have further mature discussion on this matter. Time can be spent arguing or time can be used more productively educating those that are in need of enlightened education programmes that dispel myths. You cannot change political process and outcomes if you ignore the mindset of the people who actually vote,” he said.

    Fr Hilliard, who is also director of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants, warned that there were dangers in the growing preference for temporary worker programmes.

    “Again, the focus here is on the labour market and not on the migrants. Surely as a country . . . that has a long history of dealing with emigration, we need to highlight the inadequacy of such theories. Our work with emigrants in need reveals that when ‘temporary’ is put alongside ‘migrant worker’, there are catastrophic consequences. Indeed, any talk of integration in countries where these conditions are present is shallow talk.”

    A recent report by Goodbody’s Economic Consultants on emigrant services stated that funding grew from €3.1 million for 73 groups in 2003 to €11.6 million for 184 groups in 2006.

    © 2007 The Irish Times

     See the article on the Irish Times website.

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