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    Emigrant services cut to be debated in Seanad

    By Noreen Bowden | January 28, 2010

    The 14% cut in emigrant services announced in the December’s budget will be the subject of a Seanad debate, after being raised by the Labour Party’s Spokesperson on Community Affairs, Senator Dominic Hannigan.

    The cut in emigrant services was unfortunate in light of the sharply increased need for additional services. With emigration rising, there is surely more need than ever before for the kinds of information services and social supports made possible by the funding provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is disturbing to see the reversal of the increases which have done so much in recent years to alleviate the situation of the most vulnerable of our citizens abroad.

    It is particularly disturbing to realise that these cuts have gone even beyond what was called for in the McCarthy report. The McCarthy report called for cuts of 7%, or 2 million euro.  In 2008, the Irish government contributed €15m to Irish groups mostly in Britain and the US, but also in Canada, South Africa, Argentina, China and Australia.

    Speaking about the cuts, Senator Hannigan said yesterday:

    “I know there is disappointment in emigrant communities about the proposed 14 per cent reduction in support funding. This is greater than the cut proposed by An Bord Snip Nua and very disappointing. It will mean that without a doubt, services will suffer. Already there has been an increase in the incidence of dementia among older Irish people living in the United Kingdom and also an increase in the number of Irish people being made homeless.

    “The majority of the funding from the Emigrant Support Programme goes to welfare and advisory groups who deal with those at the front line of poverty. These people are often marginalised in the new community they moved to because of a lack of opportunity at home.

    “These cuts will mean reduction in funding support for cultural centres, places in which first, second and third generation Irish learn about their heritage and culture. It is very important that we support Irish citizens who had to leave these shores to seek a better future abroad.”

    The date for the debate has not yet been released.

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