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    Global Irish Economic Forum year-on report released

    By Noreen Bowden | October 18, 2010

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has published “The Global Irish Economic Forum – One Year On”, a progress report outlining initiatives taken up in the year since the Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh.

    Mr Martin describes the effect of Farmleigh on the Ireland-Diaspora relationship as “transformative”:

    The Irish worldwide embraced the spirit of Farmleigh by actively contributing to the debate on Ireland’s future and, in particular, by establishing a range of new and innovative local initiatives.

    Also, to a much greater extent than before, many state and private sector organisations recognise that the enhancement of the relationship with the Diaspora is proving a valuable asset in Ireland’s economic recovery – in particular in providing a competitive edge in certain key markets.?

    The press release highlights a number of key activities:

    • the establishment of the Global Irish Network; a network of over 300 highly influential figures from 37 countries. This was a key proposal of the Forum and Network meetings have since been hosted in a number of key markets including in London, Paris, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai.  A meeting of the North American Network members will take place in New York in November.  The Network provides Ireland with an invaluable resource of international expertise from which we can draw as we work towards economic recovery.  This direct access to key private-sector decision makers across the globe has the potential to deliver real, tangible economic benefits for the Irish at home and abroad;
    • the establishment of a secretariat to develop and expand the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ILTG) in Silicon Valley and the opening of the Irish Innovation Centre in California.  The ITLG is an independent organization comprised of a number of high-level technology leaders in Silicon Valley who are Irish or Irish-American. The Group includes senior executives from some of the Valley’s leading corporations, each of whom are committed to helping Ireland address the challenges of embracing new technology opportunities. The appointment of Craig Barrett, former President and CEO of Intel and a prominent Farmleigh attendee, as the Chair of the ITLG is a very positive development;
    • the establishment of the Farmleigh Fellowship in Singapore by a group of Irish based business people in Singapore.  This graduate scheme will provide up to 25 Irish participants the opportunity to work and study in Asia and Ireland over the course of a year.  Selection of the participants is underway with the programme scheduled to commence in December, 2010;
    • Gateway Ireland another private sector initiative, aimed at creating a new high quality Irish portal website, is being developed by John McColgan in close cooperation with a number of prominent private sector partners;
    • The Ireland Funds, in close coordination with the Department of Foreign Affairs, hosted a Youth Forum in Farmleigh in June 2010.  The forum examined how younger members of the Diaspora can contribute effectively to Ireland, both culturally and economically; and
    • in the Tourism and Culture sectors, the Government agreed to the appointment of Gabriel Byrne as Ireland’s first Cultural Ambassador while Culture Ireland is developing a special programme for 2011 which will showcase Irish arts and culture throughout the US.  One of the elements that came to the fore most strongly in Farmleigh was the potential for leveraging our cultural identity in support of our economic regeneration

    While the report is highly comprehensive, one thing it does not mention is the commitment in the 2009 Programme for Government for recommendations on the feasibility of extending the franchise in presidential elections to emigrants.

    From the report’s conclusion:

    There is now acceptance across Government and in the private sector that deeper engagement with our Diaspora can play a valuable role in policy and business strategy development. It is important that this engagement be facilitated and deepened in the period ahead. The success of the regional meetings of the Global Irish Network has shown that the Irish and our friends abroad are keen to maintain and develop this engagement.

    The government’s openness to diaspora economic engagement is laudable – but surely economic and political engagement should be going hand in hand. The diaspora isn’t just the “huge and willing resource” referred to by the Taoiseach at the launch of the Smart Economy policy a few weeks ago. It also includes a body of disenfranchised citizens who are willing to assist Ireland despite having no voice here. Granting them votes – as nearly every other developed nation does for their expat citizens – would be a key step in deepening this engagement.

    See the full report – “The Global Irish Economic Forum: One Year On”

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