Since 2004, the Irish Abroad Unit has invested millions in overseas contributions to the Irish diaspora.
The money was spent on a range of services ranging from car-park repairs and Irish music lessons. According to a breakdown of 2009 contributions, almost 200 social and cultural groups received over $19 million between them in grants. The financial support was primarily focused in the UK and the U.S. but also reached 11 countries around the globe including China and Zimbabwe.
Last year the Irish government donated checks worth $180,000 to support 14 St. Patricks Day festivities around the world. Money was also donated to a knitting club; a magazine; preschool sessions; anniversary celebrations for Irish organizations and to provide Irish music lessons.
The Irish Arts Center in New York received over $3 million last December. The Fáilte Care Corporation in New York was given $132,000 to in-store a new elevator. The Irish Culture & Learning Foundation also based in the U.S. was given $442,000 for renovations. Chicago's Gaelic Park was given $235,000 for facility improvements and $223,000 was donated to the Kathleen Connolly House in Luton, in southern England.
The Federation of Irish societies in the UK received $875,000 and the London Irish Center was given $483,000 for welfare services.
The Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) was established as part of the Irish Abroad Unit in 2004 and since its inception its budget has grown from $5 million to $19million.
Most donations are spent on welfare, outreach programs, and social support networks for the elderly.
The Fine Gael spokesman on the diaspora, Paul Connaughton said that “Heritage spending is a huge issue now. We are scouring the world now for the Irish diaspora, for the people who may be able to help us build a better Ireland and create jobs."
"I would be anxious to ensure that the core funding for groups who look after the elderly and people who have fallen on hard times would continue. No matter what hard times we fall on, it's very important," he told the Sunday Tribune.
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