Government pledges Covid-19 support for vulnerable, elderly and undocumented Irish abroad
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Government pledges Covid-19 support for vulnerable, elderly and undocumented Irish abroad

IRELAND’S Diaspora Minister Ciarán Cannon has pledged the Government’s “reinforced support” for the Irish community in Britain and across the world in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.

Addressing the global Irish community this week, he said: “As Minister for the diaspora, I am particularly conscious of the many Irish communities around the world that are being affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

“While the Government is working to assist thousands of Irish citizens stranded abroad to return to Ireland, I am conscious that many more of the global Irish are already at home and facing the serious challenges posed by this global pandemic.

“I want to assure you that although you are abroad, you still are in our thoughts as we collectively fight against this pandemic. “

Mr Cannon, a Galway East TD who has held the Diaspora Minister role since 2017, explained that the support would include “refocusing resources” to support the most vulnerable members of the Irish communities located around the world before highlighting the elderly and undocumented specifically.

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He confirmed that the initiative would be “spearheaded” by Irish government staff located in its embassies and consulates worldwide.

“Earlier this week the Government agreed to reinforce our support for our global Irish communities throughout this crisis period,” Mr Cannon explained.

“In particular, we will be refocusing our resources to our most vulnerable communities, especially the elderly, the undocumented and those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the pandemic.

“These efforts will be spearheaded by our network of embassies and consulates working in close collaboration with local community and welfare organisations.”

Regarding the Irish community organisations currently working to support their elderly and vulnerable members through the health crisis, Mr Cannon said: “I applaud the way these organisations have moved quickly to refocus their activities in response to this crisis and ensured the continuity of their services in very difficult circumstances.

“We value the efforts of so many and we want to make sure that this vital work continues and is sustained."

He added: “We will work to support community organisations stay active and play their critical role in aiding the vulnerable members of our diaspora.

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“This includes actions to reduce the pressure of isolation, especially the mental health challenges which many will face, as well as aiding those who may be bereaved at this difficult time.

“We will also look to assist communities meet the needs of those made vulnerable by the crisis and respond quickly and effectively to cases of particular hardship.”

Mr Cannon has also suggested Irish people worldwide should “reach out” to their family members, adding: “At this time when so many in our global Irish community are facing unprecedented and difficult isolation I encourage you to pick up the phone and check on family members or other members of your community.”

For the younger members of the diaspora, Minister Cannon suggested lockdown could offer the perfect chance to research their Irish family tree – using a newly announced tool form the Government’s Ireland Reaching Out network.

“I know that, in particular, many children in our communities around the world have been affected by the crisis and are confined to home,” he explained.

“I would like to recommend an initiative that Ireland Reaching Out have developed, a Children’s Family Tree.

“This allows children to connect with their Irish heritage and understand their history. It provides an opportunity for families self-isolating at home to explore their genealogy and bring them into contact with their extended family members in Ireland.”

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He closed his message with a reminder that “this crisis will pass” and “the bonds between us, which we can strengthen through our actions and solidarity during this time, will be all the stronger in the future”.

He added: “You should know that we are keeping the lights on for you here in Ireland during this dark time and are looking forward to meeting you again when this is all behind us.”