If you’re not in, we can’t win.
This is the message that Ireland Inc needs to be sending out to its diaspora in the wake of the recent Global Irish Economic Forum.
For Ireland to benefit from its emigrant children we need to reach out, incentivize, include, and exploit the attractiveness that we have as a nation.
I recently travelled from my base in Atlanta to attend the Forum at Dublin Castle and was asked by the Taoiseach to provide my own suggestions on how we can engage the diaspora in solving our current problems.
The first of the three issues I raised with him was that of connection.
We have 70 million in the diaspora scattered throughout the globe and no cohesive plan to connect them with the country.
I belong to one of the largest ethnic groups in the United States and while I can watch Al Jazeera and the BBC on cable TV, I cannot see RTE.
That, to me, is a missed opportunity, notwithstanding the limited online service offered on the RTE Player.
This would also provide an opportunity for Irish companies to get visibility in the American market.
As a current affairs and GAA fanatic, I would pay dearly for the privilege of accessing my homeland in my living room, and know that thousands of others would do the same.
As it stands, if I want to watch the All-Ireland final, I have to travel to a pub to see it and pay $20. This was fine a decade ago, but the world has moved on.
The market of 34.5 million Irish Americans is there, and our national broadcaster needs to investigate satisfying its demands in the way that almost every other major nation has.
The Government should also build on the relative success of The Gathering by gathering email subscriptions to a weekly update e-zine that would keep people in touch with matters topical, sporting and cultural.
At the same time, this would serve as a marketing tool for people either intending to travel home for leisure or on a more permanent basis.
It is the latter grouping that was the subject of my second suggestion.
We need to give the Irish who have earned abroad a solid reason to come home.
In what would be a win-win for the country, we need to give meaningful tax incentives to people to move themselves and their wealth back into the State.
For most people abroad, the will may be there to return to Ireland, but there is a real physical cost of moving.
I would advocate a 20% tax credit for every dollar or euro that a returning emigrant deposits in a bank.
If they bring money back and set up a business employing people, then we should institute a 200% tax break, spread over a number of years.
Both of these measures will create jobs, stimulate the housing market and help recapitalise our financial system.
My final suggestion was based around the Global Irish Economic Forum itself.
I am firmly of the conviction that it should pay its own way – even before the country prospers from its thinking.
300 people, billed as the most influential Irish people living abroad, were given the golden keys to the republic that weekend – and put up at the State’s expense in sumptuous surroundings.
Make no mistake, many people would have paid a substantial fee to attend the ultimate Irish networking opportunity.
In other walks of business life, I would have expected to pay dearly to be given access to an event attended by President Higgins, An Taoiseach and the cabinet.
I feel that this is a business event, to be attended by a rotation of our finest entrepreneurs, with the business of getting the country back on its feet as its main priority.
I feel that it needs to be shaken up, and let it be an indication that the Government are taking the potential power of the diaspora to kick-start the economy as seriously as we do.
Peter Casey, a native of Derry City, is Founder and Executive Chairman of Claddagh Resources, a global recruitment and search business that places high level executives with some of the world's largest and most influential consulting and IT firms.
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