THE Irish Government has said that it will represent emigrant views despite controversial comments from the Minister for Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan that doing so was not a part of his role.
Speaking to the Irish Post, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said representing the views of emigrants was “the purpose of his visit” while rejecting the assertion there was a conflict of message between Mr Deenihan’s position and an upcoming fundraising event due to be held by Fine Gael in London in October.
In a recent interview with the Irish Post, Mr Deenihan - whose role falls within Mr Flanagan's department - suggested that emigrants with views on current issues such as abortion and gay marriage should “write to the Minister for Health or the Taoiseach.”
“That is certainly not my role and I do not want to pretend to people that I have another role,” he had said.
But in Cricklewood on Friday, Mr Flanagan backed his colleague and brushed of the suggestion that the Irish government were happy to take emigrants' money without taking on board their views.
“Jimmy Deenihan has shown a distinct interest in the Irish abroad not only in UK but in US and Australia; not only in politics but in his association with the GAA,” said Mr Flanagan. “He is a man of the highest reputation and he is undertaking this task with great gusto.”
The minister continued: “Of course we will rep the view of emigrants. That’s the purpose of my visit so as I can be appraised of what is happening here on the ground, so I can engage with it. Of course we are going to rep the views of emigrants and the views of emigrants will continue to play a role in the affairs of the state.”
Addressing fears over airport disruption between the islands following news that Britain was upping security in light of the threat posed by Jihadis, he said: “I would like to allay those concerns. We have had a common travel agreement and we have seen in recent times more travel than ever - our tourism figures are up - more people than ever are travelling between the UK and Ireland.
"Of course there will be normal security machinery at our ports and we certainly welcome that in the context of international terrorism. But I don’t believed there should be any undue concerns following the change in security on the part of the UK Government.”
The Minister for Foreign Affairs also stated issues in the North and commitments to the Good Friday Agreement remained a priority but also stressed that he will be making a “strong case” to maintain the Emigrant Support Grant in line with current levels.
“I believe it is important that the community that have enjoyed support, and continue to require it, will get that support from the government.”