During The Gathering Ireland 2013, visitors came to Ireland to reconnect with their Irish roots, explore a country they had always dreamed of visiting and enjoy locally organized community events. Why? Because they were invited.
This initiative did two things it asked the people of Ireland to get involved and it looked outward to Ireland’s 70 million diaspora and said “would you like to come to Ireland?” The result was a major success with close to 5,000 events around the country and more importantly it launched the beginning of a new relationship with Ireland’s international family around the world.
Since then Jimmy Deenihan has been appointed as the first Irish Minister for Diaspora Affairs. The Irish government has launched the Global Irish policy aiming to deepen links with the diaspora and promote a deeper understanding of Ireland globally. While this was all going on something new was happening in Limerick.
The Global Limerick Network (GLN) has shown how Ireland might keep building on the close and intimate community level ties that the Gathering had begun to forge.
The board of GLN is made up of public representatives, academics and local business people including Cllr. Kevin Sheahan, Mayor of Limerick City and County, Pat Daly, GLN Chairperson and Director of Economic Development & Planning with Limerick City and County Council, Tim O’Connor, the former chairman of the Gathering, the author of the report Sarah Gibbons, and Dr Geraldine Brosnan of Mary Immaculate College and John King, CEO of the Irish Ancestry Research Centre (IARC), among others.
GLN came together and asked what can we do for our diaspora, to connect to them reach out to them and make them feel welcome in the community. Their answer was simple they once again reached out to the diaspora in a very Limerick ways asked “What do you want!?”
The results, included in “Report on the Limerick Diaspora Scoping Study and Survey 2014” make for fascinating reading. The survey, “Connecting with Limerick” was answered by 364 members of the Limerick diaspora. An overwhelming 82 percent wanted more communication from Limerick. They wanted news, information on local activities, and items of historical and cultural interest.
What they expressed is a desire to establish a platform for creating connections, networks and links with Limerick. The Limerick diaspora want to articulate the emigrant experience and supports required while living away and in returning to Limerick. Also many of those surveyed stressed the need to have greater intensity surrounding the positive promotion of Limerick, both in Ireland and to the overseas market.
What was clear from the Global Limerick Network survey is that the diaspora of Ireland wants their voice to be heard. The city had an estimated 3.5 million diaspora around the world and what was the survey showed is that they want to retain that connection with Limerick.
Spurred on by this survey the Global Limerick Network has announced plans to create a worldwide network through which Limerick people will facilitate the connection of the Irish diaspora. What’s even more exciting is that other counties and cities around Ireland are picking up on the idea.
Tim O’Connor, former New York Consulate and Chairman of the Gathering, told IrishCentral that since the success of the Connecting with Limerick and the enthusiasm shown for the Global Limerick Network they had hosted 70 town hall-style meetings around Ireland. The communities are charged and ready to reach out to their own counties diaspora.
Once again the Irish at home and abroad have been invited to take part and what’s next could be the start of a new global Irish diaspora network which will further strengthen the strong bond the Irish community has around the world.
Speaking at the survey’s launch Minister Deenihan said he sees the scope for this to be the beginning of something much larger.
“This study by Limerick City and County Council will be an invaluable aid to other councils seeking to get involved in stronger ties with people from their communities living abroad,” the Minister said.
While emigration has been a sad part of Ireland’s history the nature of the country’s relationship with their diaspora has changed greatly in the last decades with the advance of technology and so this new generation of diaspora means a. Now we’re seeing the advent of a new kinds of relationship with Ireland’s family abroad, the 70 million worldwide and 35 million in the United States.
Speaking recently in Dublin Tim O’Connor said “It's the start of a new paradigm where we the homestead are the custodians of the heritage of the 70 million and they then are our pathfinders, our family around the world.”
These county based networks just like Global Limerick Network could be answer to reaching out to the international Irish family and letting them know they’re always welcome at home.
For more information visit www.limerick.ie/GlobalLimerickNetwork.