Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

2:30 pm

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I wish to take the opportunity to commend our Minister of State with responsibility for diaspora matters, Deputy Ciarán Cannon. He is doing great work in this area. It follows from the great work of the former Ministers of State, Jimmy Deenihan and Deputy Joe McHugh. Each had a unique style. Jimmy Deenihan has five All-Ireland medals. Anywhere he went in the world, it was currency. I wish it was currency I could use but I do not even have a county medal. It is something I could use. The same applies to Deputy Joe McHugh, who is from Donegal. He embraced the Irish language, went around and did a great job. I know from the contacts I hear from in London, Leeds and New York that the Minister of State is bringing his musical style, which is very good. I gather those in Milwaukee were delighted with the presence of the Minister of State and his rendition on stage.

The diaspora are part of us all. I remember I travelled around the world in the early 1980s and I ended up working in Australia. I remember going into a bar full of people who never came home. Only then I realised how fortunate I was in the 1980s to be the first person in my town ever to go to Australia and come back home. I imagine many would have preferred to send me back again, but it shows how things have changed. I was so excited to meet friends of my father in New York and some of those he grew up with in Tubbercurry. I remember reading the Roscommon Heraldin Australia. It used to come out six weeks later. I recall reading every part of that newspaper six weeks later.

That is what our diaspora have done: they have kept in touch. The probably understand more about politics and life in our country than we do because they never forgot where they came from. They did everything they could in their new lives to remember the island of Ireland.

We talk about diaspora and the Fenian brotherhood. My father worked in London most of his life. I imagine Senator Lawless would agree that in the United States we mobilise well. We certainly did as much as we could for those back home. However, one place where we did not mobilise well was the United Kingdom. Was it lack of confidence? Alcohol certainly was an issue. Maybe we did not embrace it as a political system. What has happened in recent years is incredible. It was a missed opportunity. Perhaps we should have done it 70, 80 or 90 years ago when we had a vast diaspora who were available to us. There were some missed opportunities. This is where we are now and it is wonderful to see the work being done.

There is a match on tonight. The Republic of Ireland will play Hungary.


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