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  • Emigrant services cut to be debated in Seanad

    Thursday, January 28th, 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.

    Related sites:

    Calls for greater care of elderly follows death of man in NY

    Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

    The death of a 72-year-old Irish man in New York has resulted in a new focus on the needs of elderly Irish emigrants in the US.

    Tony Gallagher, originally from Ballycorrick, Co Mayo had died perhaps as long as a week before his body was found in his Queens apartment. Though some press reports have depicted Mr Gallagher as being socially isolated, other reports have noted he was an active member of his local community and, though he lived alone, had close contacts with family members. Mr Gallagher’s Leitrim-born wife, Josephine, is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s Disease. His brother lives in Massachusetts, where Mr Gallagher had visited him to celebrate Thanksgiving weeks before he died. In mid-December he apparently suffered a heart attack and died; his body was not discovered until firemen broke into his apartment as much as a week later, after a caretaker noted Mr Gallagher’s absence.

    Ciaran Staunton of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in New York has described the need for a census of the Irish community there. Calling Mr Gallagher’s death as a wake-up call, he said, “No one knew he existed. That’s the problem. That’s what we intend to change.? Work on the census has already begun, with volunteers knocking on doors and community leaders registering the elderly.

    Mr Staunton also called for the opening of drop-in centres in the Queens area to discourage isolation and build a sense of camaraderie. He said that the community would be looking to successful models in England as examples for work in Queens, naming the Leeds community as one such example.  The Aisling Irish Centre in Yonkers also has a well-established programme for the elderly, and there are other programmes throughout the New York area.

    Mr Staunton is asking both the Irish and the Northern Irish governments for support in funding the programme. Mr Staunton praised the work of the Irish government, telling the Irish Times,

    “Not too often does a Taoiseach get praised, but when Brian Cowen was minister for foreign affairs he was instrumental in funding services here. Now that Micheál Martin has stepped into Mr Cowen’s shoes we have been met with nothing but a positive response.”

    The Evening Herald reported that Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin would look at funding an outreach worker to visit emigrants in their own homes.

    See related articles:

    Irish government announces additional US funding

    Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

    Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin has announced another round of funding for Irish community projects in the US, bringing the 2008 total for Emigrant Support funding to over $5 million.

    The $2 million in funding announced this week will cover several capital projects:

    • JFK Presidential Library and Museum, Boston ($1,000,000)
    • San Francisco GAA Facilities ($500,000)
    • Chicago Gaelic Park ($250,000)
    • Rockland County GAA ($200,000)
    • Irish Americans in Government, New York ($20,000)

    Several emigrant services project are also getting funding:

    • New York Irish Centre ($80,000)
    • Ancient Order of Hibernians ($20,000)
    • Aisling Irish Centre, New York ($20,000)
    • Senior Helpline Project, New York ($15,000)

    In announcing the funding, Minister Martin said,

    “I am announcing grants for three major Irish community development projects in San Francisco, Chicago and New York. Earlier this year, I announced funding for another major Irish community development project in Boston. Each of these projects marks a new and exciting phase in the development of the large Irish communities in these cities. The involvement of the GAA in each of the projects is pivotal given that the organisation is a key focal point for our people in the US, and it is to be praised for its work within those communities.”

    “These investments are a strong indication of the enormous value the Government places on supporting our people in the United States and of our firm commitment to building even closer ties with the Irish American community. It is a community to which we in Ireland have on many occasions over the years turned to for advice and practical assistance. It is also a partnership which will secure the long term future of the Irish community in America”

    “I know from my own visits to the United States how committed our communities are to maintaining their own distinctive culture and tradition and their links with Ireland. I believe that there is an onus on us to assist them in their efforts. This investment represents a win- win for Ireland and our community in the US. “

    “I also know how it is so important that the Irish in America have a focal point where they can meet, particularly for our older people who can so easily become isolated as their social networks splinter and sometimes disappear altogether. These are the very people who over the years would have sent substantial amounts in financial remittances back to Ireland and it is important that their contribution not be forgotten.”

    See the full press release on the Department of Foreign Affairs website.