Billy Lawless Speech from Launch of Cavan Diaspora Engagement Strategy 2017

Good morning everyone, Minister, Cathaoirleach of Cavan County Council, Councillor Fergal Curtin, Councillors and my colleagues, Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Denis O’Donovan and Senator Diarmuid Wilson.

I would like to commend Cavan County Council for its diaspora engagement strategy which is being launched today. Cavan experienced some of the worst ravages of the famine and resulting emigration from the 1850s onwards. The Irish – and the Cavan diaspora in particular – are widespread, and found in every corner of the globe.

The Cavan diaspora engagement strategy,  seeks to build upon work that is already happening, but will focus the energy of the county’s residents on its successful diaspora members.

The strategy involves a multi-pronged approach of identifying the Cavan diaspora, engaging it and laying the groundwork for projects which will grow as a result of engagement with local and diaspora community members.

We live in an increasingly connected globalised society, but no matter where we go we are always called back, as Irish men and women, to the home place. We are a people rooted in our history, and in the land of our forefathers, and the green fields of Cavan are no different.

Your plan to engage with the Cavan diaspora is not only good policy but timely, and a testament to the outward looking nature of a county whose global links stretch far and wide.

The recent success of the Gathering, which brought so many towns and villages across the length and breadth of Ireland together to celebrate their diaspora, shows quite clearly that the Irish people want a modern and meaningful link to Irish people living abroad. But remember that so many people came home to Ireland for the Gathering, simply because they were invited. An invitation from the home place has such huge resonance for Irish people living overseas. That’s something to consider when developing any diaspora engagement Project.

I would encourage you all to continue thinking big,  but also connect with the marvellous work being undertaken on a national stage with diaspora engagement policy.

First established by Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan and continued on by Minister Joe McHugh, the Government’s commitment to the diaspora has grown from strength to strength.

Indeed, my own appointment as the first emigrant senator with the specific brief of representing the Irish living overseas, speaks volumes of the government continuing focus.

The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade is Chaired by your own, Brendan Smith, T.D., who is very supportive of the undocumented and was in Washington DC in December last, where he met with Senior Cabinet people, including Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Mangement and Budget, who’s own daughter attends Trinity College, Dublin, and other members of The Friends of Ireland Congressmen.

We must also remember though, that engagement is a two-way street and many of our diaspora members wishing to return to Cavan and Ireland in general, are faced with many hurdles and obstacles upon their return. They sometimes find it difficult to establish residency, and secure vehicle car insurance for example. Third level State fees is also a problem for the children returning Irish citizens, who have been away for some time.

We recently had a very successful Civic global Forum in Dublin Castle, which brought together diaspora organisations and representatives from across the world.

The groups discussed a variety of issues but chief among them was insuring a smoother return process for our fellow countrymen, who wish to make Ireland home  again.

I would encourage you in Cavan, to be ahead of the ball curve, and respond to your own diaspora members who wish to take up residence again in this great County.

Again, I would like to congratulate you for your great work and thank you for your continued commitment to diaspora issues.