A SINN FÉIN senator based in the West of Ireland has been the first to criticise the Government’s newly announced Diaspora Policy claiming it treats emigrants as “second class citizens”.
Galway-based Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has slammed the Global Irish proposal announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan in Dublin yesterday.
He stated: “It would appear Minister Deenihan has once again dropped the ball in terms of the Irish Diaspora”.
The politician, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for the Diaspora, was born in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire but moved back to his parents’ hometown in Connemara in his youth, where he is still based.
“It is good that the Government has finally set out its stall in relation to its diaspora policy,” he said, adding, “this is a lengthy document and I will need to read it carefully to make an informed assessment of its policy proposals.”
Regarding its failures, he claimed: “While acknowledging the importance of voting rights for the Irish abroad he [Minister Deenihan] goes on to say the Government would first need to analyse the issues that might arise if the franchise was extended.
“In other words, the decision to extend voting rights to Irish citizens living abroad has been put on the long finger.”
He added: “In light of the return of high levels of emigration, this is simply not good enough.”
Speaking at the launch, Minister Deenihan claimed the introduction of votes for the Diaspora would be difficult.
"An extension of voting rights to Irish citizens outside the State would be welcomed by many in the diaspora," he said.
"It would allow them to deepen their engagement with Ireland and to play a more active role in Irish society. It would further the wider goal of enhancing diaspora engagement. However, it would also be challenging to introduce and to manage. A range of issues would arise in this context."
Ireland’s new Global Policy is the state's first official recognition of the status of the Diaspora across the world.
The first Global Civic Forum is due to take place in June and will bring together community leaders and members of the Diaspora to discuss the challenges they face.
Other initiatives announced within the policy document included a new Global Irish Website, a Global Irish Media Fund and an Alumni Challenge Fund, which will target Irish and non-Irish graduates working internationally.