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    Aussie Irish “the poor relation” asserts Irish Echo

    By Noreen Bowden | September 17, 2009

    The Irish Echo in Australia has pointed out that only four representatives from “the most Irish country in the world outside of Ireland” will be attending the Global Irish Economic Forum – and they’re not happy.

    This is Ireland reaching out to the US and UK with token representation from other regions. Over 80 per cent of delegates will be drawn from these countries and, of course, Ireland itself. At least 20 delegates will not have the inconvenience of getting on an aircraft to get to Dublin as they are already in the country.

    This in itself would not look so ridiculous if there were not just four representatives from Australia. The ‘most Irish country in the world outside of Ireland’ will occupy about two per cent of the seats at this Global Irish Conference.

    The newspaper notes that for the last decade Australia has been the number one destination for young Irish people, and “cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Perth represent the future of the diaspora as much as cities like Boston and Liverpool represent its past”.

    It says the decision to invite such a small number of Australian representatives demonstrates “that Irish Australia is very much the poor relation in the eyes of the decision makers in Dublin”.

    It cites economics and Australia’s strategic position as one reason that Australia should be better represented:

    Consider Australia’s strategic economic position as a springboard into the key Asian markets and the fact that it is the only western economy to avoid recession during the current financial crisis. Ireland has plenty of friends in America. It needs friends in Asia.

    The four Australian-based Irish that have been invited are Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Optus CEO Paul O’Sullivan, Australia Ireland Fund chairman Charles Curran and Skilled Group founder Frank Hargrave. The newspaper reports that at least two others, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating and author Thomas Kenneally, were invited but could not attend.

    The newspaper’s take on the story does reflect some of the difficulties that such a gathering surely posed for the Irish government: when you have a diaspora of 70 million people and you want to gather only a couple hundred of them in one room, there will be many players who will feel left out.

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