What sort of relationship does Ireland want with its diaspora?

The Irish Times have commissioned a poll of emigrants on a range of issues. I can imagine it was a bit of a nightmare to put together and find a representative sample (presumably of southerners)… It shows up a couple of things you might expect, and which I think could constitute some interesting building blocks for future engagement.. Not least the importance of new media like Facebook and Skype in replacing the traditional letter as a chosen medium…

Marc Scully runs works for a fascinating sounding project on the effect of various diasporas on the making of Britain at Leicester University… He sort of hints at an underlying structural problem which is almost impossible to chart by survey at this early stage of this particular exodus of Irish youth:

Well-documented problems for emigrants after coming back have included difficulties in accessing social welfare and lack of recognition of civil partnerships, although legislation for the latter has recently been introduced. Such issues have been used to argue for voting rights for emigrants.

The barriers to reintegration for returning emigrants can be psychological as well as material. My own research, as well as that of Caitríona Ní Laoire and Deirdre Conlon, has illustrated the sense for many returned emigrants of feeling like outsiders, with being viewed as “different” in workplaces emerging as a common theme.

In the case of my own research, which was carried out in England, this discomfort with “settling back” was such that the people I spoke to took the opportunity to leave Ireland again when it arose.

Traditionally (well, actually only really since the Irish famine) emigration was seen as a safety valve, drawing children off hard pressed agricultural land and into cities in other countries (there’s the same amount of Irish rural resettlement you see with other European populations after the famine)… But today’s well educated Irish migrants are able to make much more deliberate choices about what they do when they travel away.

In economic terms they are much more valuable than their ancestors many of whom had few expectations of seeing home ever again. The quality of relationship that can be sustained through new media is phenomenal higher than the old letter, or telegram. That begs the question: what kind of relationship does Ireland want with its ambitious and largely successful diaspora? Not necessarily the old double edged question of when are ye coming home? (You know we’ve no room for ye.)

  • USA

    I felt this Irish Times / MORI poll was a piece of fluff. No mention of voting rights for example.

    Mr. Scully at Leicester seems to by much more attune to immigrant issues. The Irish Times report is lip service at best, simply filling column inches, [go away and count to ten if you cannot make a civil criticism – Mods].

  • Mick Fealty

    Yeah, well it is Mr Scully I have quoted. The issue of votes for emigrants is a campaign rather than a substantive social or economic issue, and one that, currently at least, has no serious purchase at Leinster House.

  • USA

    Call it what you like Mick, but social and economic issues are secondary to voting rights. That makes it THE emigrant issue this side of the pond. It is only with the vote that they will give a (1, 2, 3….10) concern about our issues. That’s as plain as night following day. If you can’t vote politicians don’t care what you have to say.

    The dominant elite in Irish society create the conditions of emigration, and then take away their vote once the young people leave the island. Out of site, out of mind, problem solved. These young Irish citizens must have a voice and a platform to be heard. The vote is a birth right of every citizen, it is not within the remit of a government to give it or it away.

    It is only through the having the vote the emigrants can be heard. Finally, it’s quid pro-quo. We have been encouraged to aid in Ireland’s recovery. It’s not a one way street, if they really are sincere and value us they must show it. Lots of folks over here will tell them where to go if they expect to take take take, and offer nothing in return. Respect us and we will help. The singular act the Irish can take is to pass voting rights legislation that enfranchises many more of it’s citizens.

  • Pete Baker

    “That makes it THE emigrant issue this side of the pond. It is only with the vote that they will give a (1, 2, 3….10) concern about our issues. That’s as plain as night following day. If you can’t vote politicians don’t care what you have to say.”

    NO representation without taxation.

  • Alias

    I’d be willing to grant them voting rights in exchange for taxation rights. That way they can put their money where their X will be and thereby use the franchise wisely while contributing taxes for the good of their country. The same goes for our neighbours in Northern Ireland.

  • Pete Baker

    I’d be willing to grant them voting rights in exchange for taxation rights.

    Yes, well, there’d be a few sovereignty issues to resolve first.

    And I don’t mean just with those in Northern Ireland…

    Normally you’d be quite keen on that, Alias. 😉

  • USA

    Nowhere in the Constitution (Bunreacht Na hEireann) does it link a citizens right to vote with his or her ability to pay tax. It is simply not a requirement of voting rights.

    It would seem there are many folks who vote do not pay tax such a the unemployed, “DLA” recipients, maybe even the incarcerated. I’m sure some of these groups are allowed to vote, even though they pay not tax and in many cases are a burden on tax payers.

    The tax argument is a smoke screen and should not be linked to voting rights. For example, the British and Americans have a tax agreement whereby the “ex-pats” pay tax in the country of residence. Simply really, the Yanks in Ireland can pay tax there and the Irish in the US can pay tax in their State of residence. You then draw the state pension or retirement plan based on the money you put in. It’s not rocket science.

    Voting rights is an issue related to citizens rights, and is therefore a constitutional matter for the citizens to address, not a tax issue for accountants to address.

    As I say, a citizens ability to pay tax has nothing to do with his or here voting rights. If you pay more tax you are not permitted to vote several times on election day. One citizen – one vote !!!!!!!

  • USA

    I see no sovereignty issues for Irish Presidential elections.

  • USA

    Mick,
    “has no serious purchase at Leinster House.”

    I think is will become an issue at the Constitutional Convention.

  • Pete Baker

    It would seem there are many folks who vote do not pay tax such a the unemployed, “DLA” recipients, maybe even the incarcerated.

    Are you aware of VAT, USA? But interesting that you would seek to exclude certain groups from consideration.

    The tax argument is a smoke screen and should not be linked to voting rights.

    Tell that to the revolutionaries…

    “…a citizens ability to pay tax has nothing to do with his or here [sic] voting rights.”

    It’s not quite as simple as that in the UK.

  • USA

    VAT???? Value Added Tax, yes I know what it is. We call it Sales Tax over here. In my state it’s 6.5% with no tax on clothing and many children’s items. In the next State Sales Tax is zero across the board. But what has that got to do with the price of tea in Boston?

    But interesting that you would seek to exclude certain groups from consideration.
    I’m sure I did leave out many people, I was only listing some examples. If you found that “interesting” you probably need to get out more. If you care to make some kind of point, then fell free to list them.

    Tell that to the revolutionaries…
    Another smoke screen. As i’m sure you are well aware the British were taxing the Americans while at the same time denying them voting rights. More to the point, 18th century US history has nothing to do with the rights of Irish citizens in the 21st century.

  • Pete Baker

    USA

    “VAT???? Value Added Tax, yes I know what it is. We call it Sales Tax over here. In my state it’s 6.5% with no tax on clothing and many children’s items. In the next State Sales Tax is zero across the board. But what has that got to do with the price of tea in Boston?”

    It’s a bit higher in the UK and Ireland.

    And you neglected the final point.

  • Mick Fealty

    USA,

    You can be sure that SF will bring to the CC table. But you can be equally sure it will get very short shrift from the all the others.

    But we drift again from the main points raised in the original post… When my aunt, uncle and even one of my grand parents moved to the US in the late twenties and early thirties, they stayed in touch… And initially they were housed by relatives who’d already been out there a generation before and then dutifully sent money home to parents and to help younger siblings get the education and training they needed.

    Today, people can fly to Philly in six or seven hours rather than sail out of Derry for five or six days and they can expect to maintain complex business relationships with the folks at home…

    What is useful about this survey is the mere mapping of the people, the problem and, in my view, the scale of the opportunity…

  • USA

    Peter Baker,
    And you neglected the final point.

    I am also familiar with the British legislation, and you are ignoring THE point. “What sort of relationship does Ireland want with its diaspora?>”

  • USA

    Mick,
    The “scale of the opportunity” is an excellent and constructive point. The new means of communication are obviously the tools the diaspora and the people in Ireland will have to use if they are to maximize economic opportunities and facilitate international trade.

    In my own work I deal with Irish companies every week, and I have been struck in recent years by some Irish companies’ continued lack of an effective online presence.

  • USA

    Mick,
    “it will get very short shrift from the all the others.”
    This certainly seems to be the way it is playing so far. It is early days but I do think SF are on the right side of this issue and consequently may gain political capital during the discussion.

    I would like to see everything on the table. The dominant political elite cannot be allowed to set the parameters of this debate so narrow that the issue is dead before we even get to the Convention.

    If some kind of action is not taken on voting rights then I for one will turn my back on the next Irish politician I have to listen to here in the US asking the diaspora to help out dear old Ireland.

    They can have our help, but it’s time for voting rights, and that should be the price of our co-operation.

  • Alias

    “Nowhere in the Constitution (Bunreacht Na hEireann) does it link a citizens right to vote with his or her ability to pay tax. It is simply not a requirement of voting rights.”

    It is a requirement, however, that the voter should be a citizen and that the citizen should reside within the jurisdiction and should be accountable to the Courts for his actions (including the act of voting).

    With Dáil elections, the purpose is for residents within a particular constituency to choose whomever they wish to represent them in the national parliament. It is not possible to extend the voting franchise within each and every constituency to those not resident in each or any constituency without corrupting the purpose of constituencies. There is no reason why some lime-green yank in Queens should determine who the TD for some constituency in Ireland that he has has never set sneaker in, knows nothing of the local issues therein, or will never reside in.

    In addition, it is plaintively absurd that those who will never be subject to Irish law should be allowed to in any way determine it by electing legislators. The voter should always be accountable for his actions. In that way, we won’t suffer the folly of a bunch of bleedin’ heart liberal yanks voting to enact a welfare state that their taxes will not be used to pay for, etc.

    The Constitution was changed almost 30 years ago to allow British citizens to vote in Irish elections – on condition that they resided within the jurisdiction. The result of that change is that it is now the Dáil which determines who can vote in Irish elections. It also allows EU citizens the right to vote in Dáil elections if specific confitions are met and the minister agrees (which, so far, none has).

    I wouldn’t trust our gombeen political class on this issue as far as I could throw a pregnant whale (or average-sized American woman, same difference). If it could be presented by the media as something wonderfully progressive rather than a further limitation to be imposed on the sovereign nation’s right to determine its own affairs within a sovereign state then they’d all support it publically but would never dare to implement it for fear of how it might effect the numbers in their respective constituencies.

  • Alias

    Incidentally, the best way for the diaspora to gain influence in Ireland is to buy it. The state should open a bank account where they can lodge money anytime they feel homesick that will be used to fund schools and hospitals in Ireland. If tens of millions are raised this way then a higher value will be attached to the diaspora. If, as is more likely to be the case, a few fivers are lodged once in a blue moon then a lower value will be attached.

  • USA

    Alias,
    The insults toward people living in the Bronx and those directed toward American women are obviously childish, much like your understanding of the voting rights issue. Your suggestion of opening up a bank account highlights the limited value of anything you have to say on the matter.

    Here are two words to help you figure out the first bit:
    “Presidential Elections”….good luck.

    “It is not possible to extend the voting franchise within each and every constituency to those not resident in each or any constituency without corrupting the purpose of constituencies.”

    Hmmm, strange that because the British can do it, the Americans, French, Germans etc?
    This speaks to Micks point earlier regarding emigrants and technology, as the required form is now just a simple click away.

    And at not time did I suggest Irish-Americans can vote in Dail elections. However, emigrants from constituencies in Dublin, Cork, Galway etc should absolutely be allowed to vote. I believe in Britain ex-pats have the right to vote for up to 15 years, and if i’m not mistaken US citizens hold it for life. Again, the Americans regard it as a birth right and not within the remit of a government to give or take away.

    The issue of Irish citizens living in the North also needs to be addressed. So best to put the whole issue on the table for frank and honest discussions that will benefit Ireland and all it’s citizens in the century ahead.

  • Jimmy Sands

    If you can’t vote politicians don’t care what you have to say.

    I haven’t lived there for 30 years. Why should they?

  • Alias

    “The insults toward people living in the Bronx and those directed toward American women are obviously childish…”

    I quite enjoyed the pregnant whale comparison but I guess if I lived in the Bronx I’d lose my sense of humour too.

    “Your suggestion of opening up a bank account highlights the limited value of anything you have to say on the matter.”

    Again, I thought this was an excellent idea. Do you think whingers won’t put their money where their mouths are? Probably not, they do tend to look for rights without responsibility.

    ““Presidential Elections”….good luck.”

    This doesn’t address my other salient point: “it is plaintively absurd that those who will never be subject to Irish law should be allowed to in any way determine it by electing legislators.” The president has a key role in signing legislation into law. Again, I see no reason to allow those who are not subject to laws within the jurisdiction to have any role whatsoever in the legistlative process.

    What practical purpose could there be? None at all – it is mere tokenism at best, and a further attempt to undermine the right of the sovereign nation to determine its own affairs within its sovereign state at worst.

    “Hmmm, strange that because the British can do it, the Americans, French, Germans etc?”

    Who cares what others do? The Chinese eat dogs. Should be do this too?

    “However, emigrants from constituencies in Dublin, Cork, Galway etc should absolutely be allowed to vote.”

    I agree, and they may do so as soon as they return to live in their respective constituencies.

    “Again, the Americans regard it as a birth right and not within the remit of a government to give or take away.”

    Would this birthright be limited to the constituency they were born in? That might be a bit hard on a man who was born in Cork but raised in Dublin, and why should it be limited to those no longer residing within country of their birth when it is based on the constituency of their birth? Surely our Dublin man should also be entitled to vote in Cork? He must have two votes for to do otherwise whould deprive him of his birthright and to limt his vote to one constituency would deprive him of the right to vote in the constiuency in which he now resides.

    “The issue of Irish citizens living in the North also needs to be addressed.”

    It has been addressed. If they feel a need to vote in a Dáil election then they can move to an applicable constituency – assuming they have applied for Irish citizenship and been duly granted it. That is no longer a birthright post GFA, or didn’t you know that? Instead they have a right by birth to apply for an Irish passport but are born British.

    “So best to put the whole issue on the table for frank and honest discussions that will benefit Ireland and all it’s citizens in the century ahead.”

    Thanks, but for the advice but as you can’t vote in this jurisdiction I’m glad that your fringe (pro-Shinner) opinion is of no practical consequence.

  • USA

    Jimmy Sands,
    Most countries facilitate voting for citizens living abroad. The British offer if for up to 15 years. Agreed, if someone is gone 30 years then it is reasonable to ask why they should continue to have a vote, and this can be legislated for. But when kids are forced to leave the island on a Monday, they should not be written off the electoral register on Tuesday. They should at least have the opportunity to vote. It is up to them if they choose to exercise that right.

    Alias,
    You continue to contrive weak arguments that seems to be born mainly from your own prejudices. The issue seems a little too complex for your obviously limited intellect.

  • Alias

    I take that as a compliment coming from someone whose only ‘argument’ in support of a line he has soaked up from the Shinners is that people that no longer reside within a jurisdiction should continue to vote within that jurisdiction because “kids are forced to leave the island on a Monday, they should not be written off the electoral register on Tuesday.”

    Very true, my friend in the Bronx: they should be written off the register on Monday, not after they no longer reside within its jurisdiction.

    I can’t wait until the Shinners embrace the British army as part of the normalisation agenda. Just think of all the feeble spiel that you’ll be compelled to parrot in support of that particular line…