• Subscribe to our newsletter

    Email address

  • Archives

  • Tags

  • Newswatch Categories

  • « | Main | »

    Should Ireland welcome its diaspora home?

    By Noreen Bowden | September 10, 2007

    Irish commentator David McWilliams is calling for the Irish diaspora to be welcomed to a “New Hibernia” in his upcoming book, The Generation Game. He is calling for descendants of Irish emigrants to be welcomed back for the economic and cultural health of Ireland.

    In an excerpt from the new book published in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post, McWilliams says,

    There are 3.5 million Irish citizens living outside the country. But the greater diaspora is considerably bigger. In economic terms, the 70 millionstrong Irish tribe is the 21st-century equivalent of a huge oil deposit.

    In the same way as oil guarantees Saudi Arabia’s future, the Irish tribe could be the key to Ireland’s prosperity in the next century. Unlike oil, because the tribe exists inside the minds of millions of Irish people around the world, if we cultivate it properly, it is a resource that won’t run out.

    It is time to see the island of Ireland in the 21st century as the cradle of a global nation.

    This nation extends all over the world, gelled together by the shared experience of previous generations.

    We should institute a ‘‘right of return’’ policy and extend citizenship to people of Irish descent, extending beyond the present cut-off point of two generations. This would create a strong bond between the tribe and the mother country.

    McWilliams says that Ireland’s diaspora are a “soft power” that will give the nation competitive advantage while reinforcing cultural identity. Noting Ireland’s long tradition of emigrant remittances, he calls it “the right thing to do” – but this human resource could become “the largest sales force in the world, selling Ireland first to themselves and then to others”.

    He believes that tapping into the economic might of the diaspora and its potential workforce could develop the economy while allowing Ireland to retain a sense of cultural uniqueness. Ireland would still be open to other European workers, so “the idea threatens no one”.

    He notes that the opportunity will dissipate if Ireland does not move quickly. With emigration on the decline, Irish communities abroad are no longer being replenished: “Without active guardianship from the home country, the tribe will not flourish, and in a few generations, this extraordinary opportunity will dissipate”.

    He concludes with Article 2 of the Irish Constitution, which says, ‘‘the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage”. McWilliams adds, “Let’s make this ‘special affinity’ a reality by calling them home”.

    Read the article on the Sunday Business Post website.

    Topics: Latest News | 1 Comment »

    One Response to “Should Ireland welcome its diaspora home?”

    1. terry o'neill Says:
      November 6th, 2007 at 4:26 pm

      It’s ridiculous that Irish citizens, living and working abroad,cannot vote in their own country.

      My son is a British citizen. He is based in Paris but has a postal vote in UK elections.

      In the recent Polish general election, citizens, working abroad, had a big influence on the election result.