The Irish government offered increased assistance to both the undocumented Irish in the U.S. and Irish emigrants returning home at its second Global Irish Civic Forum in Dublin last week.  Extra funding of €50,000 for the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers was announced on top of the €2.3 million the government provided in its last funding round, and a new mentoring initiative for returning emigrants will receive up to €100,000 in support.

The two-day forum at Dublin Castle which hosted some 220 delegates from all over the world was opened by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh. Among the issues on the agenda, according to a government press release, were the implementation of the government’s diaspora policy; new emigration trends and future needs of the Irish abroad; the proposal to extend voting rights in presidential elections to citizens resident outside the state; and maximizing opportunities and supports for returning Irish emigrants.

Particular focus was given to the undocumented Irish issue in the U.S.  Those speaking on a panel on how to deal with the issue included Ireland’s first ever senator representing the diaspora, Billy Lawless of Chicago, Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers President Celine Kenneally, Ronnie Millar of the Irish International Immigration Center in Boston, Michael McMahon speaking on behalf of the families of the undocumented, and  Michael Lonergan, deputy head of mission at the Irish Embassy in Washington, D.C.  Many other leaders from Irish immigration groups in the U.S. were also present.

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“Bringing together the different groups most involved in supporting undocumented Irish citizens in the United States allows us to have a better understanding of the challenges they face, as well as the difficulties faced by their families at home.  By working together, we will continue to sensitize the U.S. authorities at federal, state and municipal levels, to our concerns, and seek solutions for our citizens abroad,” McHugh said.

McHugh also addressed the ongoing problems returning Irish emigrants face when seeking to establish new businesses in Ireland. The government will create a one-year pilot mentoring program with funding of up to €100,000 which will, according to a government press release, “foster and support entrepreneurial activity by working to address barriers and challenges to starting a business that are unique to that group.”

McHugh added, “We want Irish emigrants to come home and we want them to play a vibrant role in their communities and in our society when they do.  Today’s program is aimed at fostering and supporting returning emigrants who are coming home with great proposals to start their own business.

“The program will seek to attract applications from returning or recently returned emigrants with entrepreneurial ambition whether starting, partnering, acquiring or investing in existing businesses or playing an entrepreneurial role, advising and supporting innovation within existing businesses.”

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