Pre-Budget Submission Returning Emigrants

Senator Billy Lawless

Senator Billy Lawless Pre-Budget Submission (PDF – Click on link to view or download).

Since 2009, 193,200 people between the ages of 15 and 24 have left Ireland. Although the number of young people leaving in the year up to end of April 2014 has dropped, the latest available figures show that about 29,000 of those that emigrated in this period were students, an increase in this category of over 8,000 on the previous year. These figures also show that 47% of all emigrants had a degree or third level qualification.

In March 2014, the then Minister for Education and Skills announced that children of Irish emigrants, who have spent 5 years in primary or post-primary school in Ireland, will qualify for EU level fees at Irish Universities and third level institutions for undergraduate courses from the 2014/15 academic year. This move, while welcome, does not serve a person who may have emigrated with their children either at the start of recession or before and now want to return. Their children would qualify for the merit programme for scholarships to US colleges but, because they are Irish citizens, they cannot avail of any scholarship in the United States. If they come back to Ireland they would have to pay almost full fees to attend an Irish university.

There are other problems which face returning citizens that could be resolved with limited additional budgetary allocation to the relevant departments.

  • Absence of a single point of online website that could provide clear information for returning emigrants accessing services;
  • Enrolment Policies of Primary Schools that can have a discriminatory effect;
  • Car Insurance and non-transferability of no claims bonus;
  • Conversion of foreign drivers licences to Irish drivers licences;
  • Government, Landlord and Banking demands for requiring evidence ofutility bills as proof of address;

While small issues, they can act as significant barriers to enticing returning emigrants as well as integrating returning emigrants back into the Irish state. My submission also calls for the implementation of previous recommendations which would help ensure these, and subsequent issues can be addressed.

1 Strategy for return migration

Given the current review of policy on the Diaspora, it is important that provision is made within the new policy framework to develop and implement a strategy to facilitate return migration. This strategy to facilitate return migration requires a coordinated and cross-cutting policy approach to address the current barriers and obstacles to return. It also requires an action plan with adequate resources to implement the actions and to incentivise, support and facilitate young Irish emigrants to return to Ireland,
as the economy continues to recover.

2. Emigrant Policy Proofing

There should be policy-proofing of Irish social policies that impact
negatively on emigrants, before and after they leave Ireland, and to make recommendations on how these issues can be addressed.

3. Resourcing

Sufficient resources are required to ensure the Diaspora policy is fully implemented, and provision should be made for rigorous review and monitoring, to ensure it is effective.

4.  Regional Strategy

Stimulate investment and foster employment in the regions, (outside the major cities) to encourage young Irish emigrants to return home.

5. Database

Establish a register or database of skilled Irish emigrants abroad to
facilitate emigrants to return, if there is job creation within a specific area that relates to their occupation or field.

6. Immigration Centres

Foster closer connections between Ireland and its emigrants through continued investment and funding in immigration centres abroad and support groups in Ireland for returning emigrants and the enhancement of the online mechanisms.

7. Voting Rights

Extend voting rights to emigrants in Irish Presidential elections.