President Higgins says ghost estates could house returning emigrants
Says there is a need to help forgotten generations of Irish migrants
President Michael D Higgins has pledged to help the Irish community in Britain and around the world.
During a frank and exclusive interview with The Irish Post, the President:
*Vowed to help the forgotten generations of Irish who paid remittances to Ireland in the 50s, 60s and 70s
*Suggested that Ireland’s so called Ghost Estates could be used to provide free holiday accommodation for those who contributed financially to Ireland through that period and who are now among the most marginalised and vulnerable in Britain
*Pledged to push this agenda with Taoiseach Enda Kenny during his regular meetings with Government
*Revealed first-hand experience of living and working in Britain and dealing with racist stereotypes
*Promised to use his seven years in office to help and assist young Irish emigrants in Britain who “have a role to play in rebuilding Ireland.”
*And in a candid reference to Article 28 of the constitution, and the political restraints placed on him, the President made it clear he would speak out on issues he felt passionately about but will not get involved in policy.
The President who is paying a private visit to London this weekend, his second since taking office, also spoke stridently about creating opportunities for older Irish people to return to Ireland and encouraged younger migrants to use their skills to help revitalise the country.
Question: There are thousands of older Irish people who made a vast contribution to the Irish State (through remittances). Many of them are living below the poverty line in Britain. Where is the incentive for Irish people of my generation to get involved in the revitalisation of Ireland, as stated in your inauguration speech, when thousands of these people feel forgotten?
President Higgins: Well as far as I’m concerned they are not forgotten and when I was a member of the Dail I visited Britain at least once a year to the different emigrant interests in Britain. That’s why I tried get around to them all.
These are of course citizens and it is something that should be on the agenda of the British and Irish party consultation. Whether you are Irish or British in a vulnerable state you should be entitled to assistance as far as I’m concerned.
The ones you mention are a declining number because of their age but part of the reason, they were exploited by their own people; they are people who worked on the lump.
This is one of the things that people who talk about Irish migration have to understand. You have several different waves (of emigration) and they differ in experience, that quarter of a million between 1955 and ‘60 there would have been very very many of them rural. You would have had more males than females early on, mostly in construction, there were a huge number of Irish people working in nursing in Britain and I am very sensitive of all of the nuances of this.
I can tell you how important it is constitutionally with me. About every six weeks, or every month, I have a meeting with the Taoiseach which, under Article 28 of IrishConstitution states that the Government should keep the President briefed on matters international and domestic. This is I assure you a very two way conversation and remains a matter of my concern. They do recur in my conversations where it counts.
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Excellent, useless, reporting, Cormac. I say we round up these blue-eyed devils and put 'em all in a Paddy Wagon and run 'em out of town. Unless they