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Intelligencer: 17 - 23 Sept, 2008
September 19, 2008
Gov’t Reaches Out to Diaspora
THE Irish government has begun a major effort to create a new sense of what the Irish diaspora can mean to Ireland.
In the next few weeks the Irish newspapers will carry advertisements from the government inviting Irish Americans to get involved in shaping what the Irish diaspora can do both as a community and for Ireland in the years ahead.
Taoiseach (Prime Minster) Brian Cowen made no secret of his preference for greatly expanding the role of the diaspora during his recent speech at the Wall Street 50 event hosted by our sister publication Irish America magazine.
Cowen and Irish Ambassador Michael Collins are now showing that the speech was not just empty rhetoric, and that the government is indeed, and at last, serious about tapping into the diaspora.
There are 40 million good reasons why in the U.S., not to mention 70 million reasons worldwide. Given the scale and scope of the Irish abroad, it is heartening to see the Irish government now take such a leadership role.
The timing is right. As long as the Northern Troubles were dividing the Irish American community from the Irish government it was difficult indeed to bring together a consensus on this issue.
Those days are now behind us, and the new government, led by Cowen, is certainly taking the opportunity to lead from the front.
It is heartening to see this degree of commitment and the Irish American community should respond in kind. There have been many great ideas floated over the years to bring Ireland and its diaspora closer. Now is the perfect opportunity to follow them up.
New Foreign Minster Here
IRISH Americans will get a first look at new Minster for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin when he visits New York next week. Martin was formerly a minister for education, health and employment and enterprise and brings a big reputation to the job.
He is best remembered, of course, for introducing the smoking ban in public places, especially pubs, during his tenure as minister for health. He was widely criticized by many in that industry when he did so, but he stuck to his guns and his initiative is now widely copied all over the world.
Martin will be in New York on UN business, as well as introducing himself to the community. He will also be doing some work for the job creation sector at the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland.
Martin, who hails from CO. Cork was once seen as a future leader of Fianna Fail, but with Cowen winning election handily that now becomes far more of a long shot.
The former schoolteacher now takes over foreign affairs at a tough time for Ireland abroad because of the failure of the Lisbon Treaty to pass. Already there are stories about rival industrial development agencies from other countries filling American investors with details of how Ireland is no longer a full partner in Europe.
No doubt Martin will be addressing such issues head on when he is here, as well as making the acquaintance of the Irish American community. He intends to visit Gaelic Park and emigrant centers to see for himself the community in action.
Cowen Also Due
ALSO in New York next week for a brief one-day visit will be Cowen, who will be at the UN for a major meeting there.
It will be Cowen’s second visit to the U.S. the past few months. His last trip was arguably the highlight of his time in office so far as he got a rousing reception from the community and was also well received on Wall Street.
These are tough times to leader of any country in the world, and Cowen is not escaping the criticism back home.
However, it is hard to see what any small country can do about international trends, such as the meltdown on Wall Street which was duplicated in many overseas market.
There will be much focus on Cowen’s speech to the Irish nation this week when he is expected to focus heavily on the future of the Irish economy and the difficulties there, especially in the housing market.
In that respect, Cowen is not unlike leaders in several other European countries who are dealing with the fallout from the collapsing housing market in their own countries. It will be interesting to see how he deals with it.
Emigrant Bank Accounts Info
MANY emigrants who went home to Ireland in recent times maintained a U.S. bank account in hopes that the dollar/euro exchange rate would strengthen and allow them to withdraw more money eventually as a result.
Now the financial crisis has made many of these former emigrants uneasy and afraid that the dollar and euro ratio will worsen again.
Many are even afraid that the accounts may be closed down in the new era of regulation that will inevitably follow this latest crisis
The reality is that emigrants who have returned can keep bank accounts in America once they have an Irish address. Foreigners owning bank accounts in America is nothing new, and it is highly unlikely that will change. If it did it would have a profound impact on the system.
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