The “Global Irish: Ireland’s Diaspora Policy” policy paper, released yesterday, aims to nurture and develop the unique relationship the country has with its emigrants, those of Irish descent and those with an affinity to Ireland. The policy lays out actions planned to drive and foster this international engagement which is the envy of the world.

Speaking at the launch Taoiseach Enda Kenny summed up the importance of Ireland’s Diaspora. He said “the five million voices of this small nation are hugely amplified by the 70 million around the globe.”

Ireland’s leader was joined by An Tánaiste (Deputy Leader), Joan Burton, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, and Minister of State for Diaspora Affairs, Jimmy Deenihan.

A Global Irish website containing information on support services, living abroad, staying in touch and returning home to Ireland, was launched alongside the policy.

New initiatives are contained in the policy, including a Global Irish Media Fund, to encourage media support of the diaspora, and an alumni challenge fund, to provide seed-funding to new collaborative initiatives by Irish institutions to target their Irish and non-Irish graduates working internationally.

It was also announced that in November 2015 the fourth Global Irish Economic Forum would bring together the Global Irish Network, made up of over 350 of the most influential and innovative Irish business people based in 40 countries, in Dublin.

Minister for Foreign Affairs paid tribute to Don Keough saying “It's indeed fitting that the launch of the policy comes in the same week as the passing of one of the great giants of our Diaspora.”

He continued “Don Keough was one of the greatest friends Ireland ever had. The impact he had on our community and on our country in the United States is absolutely immense. Indeed I'd like to take this opportunity, Taoiseach, to convey my deepest sympathy to Don's wife, Marilyn, and the rest of his family. I know that this policy will in some small way provide a legacy for the man that embodied all that is good about global Irish.”

Global is certainly the correct term when it’s considered that, according to Deenihan, there are, currently, one million Irish passport holders living abroad, and many more who are eligible and need only apply.

The message echoed by the Irish leaders and Ministers at the launch was one of “Failte” (“Welcome”) both welcoming Irish emigrants to return home to stay or visit, along with the international Diaspora and to continue to nurture and grow our international community.

Kenny focused on the positive, and world-envied, relationship between Ireland and its Diaspora that has only been strengthened in recent years due to the economic crisis and a new wave of emigration.

“The economic crash saw the Irish Diaspora connect together in a way that has never been possible before. A tiny Atlantic Island with up to 70 million family members all stretching out their hands to support,” said Kenny, referring to Ireland’s international Diaspora as “family.”

He added that as Ireland recovers the government looks forward to welcoming those Irish who were forced to emigrate due to economic difficulties. He said “We also want people to be able to come home. Emigration has always had a devastating impact on our economy as we lose the input of talent and energy. We need these people home.

“I want to see them play their part in building our economy bringing home their experience, particularly in some of the jobs that are now being created.”

Looking ahead to a “new and confident Ireland” he added “I believe that after seven years of emigration that 2016 will be the year when the number of people coming home will be bigger than the number of people who leave.”

Tanaiste (Deputy Leader) Joan Burton said the government aims to use their embassy network as a resource to help those Irish emigrants looking to move back to Ireland to find jobs. She said “We’re ready, waitng, and willing for them to come home.”

Jimmy Deenihan Ireland’s first Minister for Diaspora Affairs spent months traveling to Irish communities around the world collecting research for what would be needed from the policy.

He said plainly “It is my job to ensure our connections to our global family remain central to government's policy. The new Irish passport [launched in 2013] has a feature where by article two of the constitution runs through its pages. It's the statement "the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage."

I'm firmly committed to ensuring that these words are implement in every capacity of Irish government policy.”

The only piece of bad news delivered by the Minister for the Diaspora was the fact that, for now, Irish citizens living abroad would not have the right to vote in the Presidential elections.

Deenihan explained “The government asked the Constitutional Convention to make a recommendation on extending the franchise to Irish citizens living abroad. The Constitutional Convention made that recommendation and they recommended that the franchise would be extended but they didn't really go into the logistics of it.”

He said the government have now asked that the Minister for the Environment Community and Local Government in cooperation with Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Minister Deenihan look into how to approach issues such as where the citizens abroad would vote and how they would register before the decision goes to the Irish people, as a referendum.

The Minister pointed out that the next Presidential election would not be until 2018 and that while they expect to have a recommendation “very soon” he added that they need to make sure they get it right.

Minister Flanagan added “It's important that all these complex issues are given full and detailed consideration before there is any referendum. I believe it is important that we know exactly how we determine illegibility of citizens outside the state to vote in presidential elections. For example we may have a small number of people in a far flung state like Myanmar who have as much right vote as someone in London.”

A fully 57-page PDF of the policy is available here.

Here’s an outline of the new Diaspora Policy:

Global Irish defines Government’s role to both drive and foster diaspora engagement in a way that:

• Supports: those who have left Ireland and need or want support;

• Connects: in an inclusive way with those, of all ages, around the world who are Irish, of Irish descent or have a tangible connection to Ireland, and wish to maintain a connection with Ireland and with each other;

• Facilitates: a wide range of activity at local, national and international level designed to build on and develop two-way diaspora engagement;

• Recognizes: the wide variety of people who make up our diaspora and the important ongoing contribution that they have made, both individually and collectively, in shaping our development and our identity;

• Evolves: to meet changing needs in changing times.

The Policy confirms the fourth Global Irish Economic Forum which will be held in Dublin in November 2015. New initiatives include the announcement of a Global Irish Civic Forum in June 2015, a Global Irish Media Fund to encourage and support media coverage of the diaspora and emigration experience, and, an alumni challenge fund to provide seed-funding to new collaborative initiatives by Irish institutions to target their Irish and non-Irish graduates working internationally.

The Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Mr. Jimmy Deenihan T.D. will establish an Interdepartmental Committee to oversee the implementation of the Policy. The implementation of this Policy will be reviewed after two years.

Supporting the Diaspora

We will:

• Keep welfare at the heart of our approach to diaspora issues

• Move to multi-annual grants under the Emigrant Support Programme where appropriate

• Commit 1% of Emigrant Support Programme funding to quality assurance

• Increase our focus on the issue of the mental health of emigrants

• Support efforts to better equip those who are leaving, for short or long term periods of time, to understand their destination

Connecting with the Diaspora

We will:

• Explore working with Northern Ireland Connections and others to pursue an engagement to benefit the island of Ireland

• Convene an Interdepartmental Committee on the Irish Abroad, including external stakeholders as required, to work on the delivery of the Diaspora Policy and examine issues affecting the Irish abroad and those seeking to return

• Review the implementation of this policy after two years

• Support local authorities in identifying and connecting with their Diasporas

• Improve communications and connectivity between Ireland and its diaspora. Two-way communication with the diaspora will be central to this engagement

• Support coverage by the media of stories about the Irish diaspora through the Global Irish Media Fund

• In 2015, seek suitable partners to pilot the initial phase of an initiative aimed at deepening the ties with Ireland of younger non-Irish born members of the Irish diaspora

• Open the Emigrant Support Programme to projects which deepen links with the diaspora and promote a deeper understanding of Ireland globally through the commemoration of key historical events in Ireland, including the 1916 Rising

Facilitating Diaspora Engagement

We will:

• Encourage Irish community organizations to achieve independently validated quality assurance standards and support them in so doing

• Convene a Global Irish Civic Forum in Ireland in 2015, to discuss the challenges facing the Irish abroad and to capture the voice of ordinary Irish emigrants; this will be complemented by a resource for Irish organizations worldwide, beginning with those funded by the ESP

• Convene a new format Fourth Global Irish Economic Forum (19 – 21 November) with increased engagement with organizations in Ireland, greater female participation, and more participation by young people

• Arrange more structured and more frequent Regional Network meetings

• Support business networks to facilitate the success of Irish people at home and abroad

• Focus on creating more opportunities as part of the economic recovery so that those who left the country because of economic need can return

• Support efforts to use Ireland as a hub for research into the potential and reach of Diasporas and the practical application of such research

Recognizing the Diaspora

We will:

• Encourage Irish people, organizations and communities to engage with the nomination process for the Presidential Distinguished Service Award

• Undertake an evaluation of the operation of the Certificate of Irish Heritage scheme

Evolving Diaspora Policy

We will:

• Support research so that we can better understand the diaspora and their needs

• Ensure diaspora policy is responsive to evolving needs

• Connect with new diaspora communities

• Launch an alumni challenge fund to provide seed funding to new collaborative initiatives by Irish institutions to target their Irish and non-Irish graduates working internationally