In June 2022, the Festival hosted two Liverpool John Moores University graduate interns; Lucy O’Donnell and Harley Mullen.
Both had Irish heritage and were keen to learn how the Festival works. Proud of our connection to the Irish Government’s Diaspora Strategy we shared it with them. Harley found the policy so compelling we invited her to write a feature on it.
In 2020 Ireland’s government launched a revised Diaspora Policy. Aimed at strengthening the connection between Ireland and people with ties to Ireland, it intends to connect via citizenship, heritage or affinity. As someone with connections to Ireland in almost every aspect of life (relationships and family heritage), the strategy has helped me to feel part of a wider community. Additionally, it’s made me realise how many people hold Ireland close to their heart.
Policy and people
The population of Ireland and Northern Ireland is over 6 million. According to the Irish Abroad Unit, over 70-million people worldwide claim Irish heritage or ancestry. This shows the value of a policy like this, which can bring a huge community of individuals together, to explore shared bonds and an enhanced sense of collective Irish identity.
For me, the policy recognises a community of people that share Irish heritage and conveys the links that bind them. It shows that the Irish government are intent on helping people connect with their roots, using Ireland as a place for allyship. The promises explored, show a clear vision, in which it will be easier for people to explore their history and feel assisted in doing so. Exploring shared bonds will vary for different people. The document touches on different points of individual access, such as those who want to return to Ireland; those living abroad and those who want to be part of creative or professional networks.
Shaped by contributions from hundreds of individuals and organisations in Ireland -and Irish communities around the world- the policy has one main vision: “to support the welfare of Irish abroad and deepen and strengthen ties with our diaspora”. This is underpinned by five strategic objectives:
- Our people: Ireland will ensure that the welfare of the Irish abroad remains at the heart of our diaspora support
- Our Values: Ireland will work with our diaspora to promote our values abroad and celebrate the diversity of our diaspora
- Our Prosperity: Ireland will build mutually beneficial economic ties with the diaspora
- Our Culture: Ireland will support cultural expression among our diaspora
- Our Influence: Ireland will extend our global reach by connecting with the next generation.
Connection with heritage
There are various ways people can use the policy to connect with their heritage. ‘Our people’ addresses the needs of Irish people living abroad and how the government can best benefit them. The policy pledges to expand Ireland’s digital outreach to connect with hitherto non-engaged members of the diaspora. It also pledges to develop a single digital platform, providing content and resources for all diaspora groups. Hitting on the modern world, and acknowledging the Irish diaspora’s global spread, the digital aspects of the strategy hold great value. An easily accessible community of people (or advice services for those living away from Ireland) for people in similar positions could be very beneficial, working towards the core goal of strengthening ties.
Ireland is the first country to release a diaspora policy. Many of the people the policy is intended for will have no knowledge of its existence. I was among them, but now have a great appreciation for its intentions. Micheál Martin, T.D., Ireland’s Taoiseach described the strategy as “a deep appreciation of the profound importance of connection”.
Personally, I believe the policy would be of great benefit to a wide range of people. It is a clear and comprehensive plan for Ireland’s intention to increase communication and sustain connectedness, serving as a benchmark for other countries to follow.
The European Union released a Global Diaspora Facility, running from June 2019- December 2022. This is the first European Union funded project to take a global approach to diaspora engagement, working with experts to assess diaspora engagement across regions around the globe. Its aim is to ‘identify the interests and challenges faced by countries of heritage when it comes to diaspora engagement’. I think this is a positive step to learning and connecting with as many people as possible.
Strategic objective two of the policy was especially meaningful to me, as it touched on specific groups within the Irish diaspora such as traditionally underrepresented groups, including Irish Travellers and the LGBTQI+ community. The specific intention to mention these groups under dedicated headings is an indication of its inclusive aims. This makes people feel heard and appreciated, which in turn fosters good relationships and increased communication. The policy dedicates a section to women in the diaspora, stating “women and girls are powerful agents of change in their communities and help promote gender equality and women’s empowerment across our diaspora”.
Overall, I believe that the Irish diaspora policy is an example of inclusive and innovative leadership. It should be read by anyone looking to connect with their Irish heritage. I encourage anybody to read the document and share their thoughts.
To find out more about it you can follow this link: