Irish Abroad

Many would be emigrants caught in visa limbo

Many Irish workers have been left in visa limbo.

Many Irish workers have been left in visa limbo.

Changes to Australian visas have people waiting for their 457 visa application to be processed worried that they could not only not be granted leave to stay in Australia but they could also lose the money they spent on their applications.

When the rules changed, many occupations were removed or downgraded and those who were eligible for a four year visa and to apply for permanent residency can now only get two years. A 457 application should take 5-10 months but applications have been taking longer to process since the changes were announced.

Australia scrapped its skilled 457 visa programme last year. The programme had allowed tens of thousands of Irish workers to enter the country legally since 1996. The visa changes were announced in 2017 by then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull who said he wanted “to put Australians first.”

Turnbull alleged the 457 visa was being misused by employers to import cheaper workers and not to fill genuine skill shortages.

For individuals who have a 457 application in progress with the department, it is open to them to wait until a decision is made on their application
— Department of Home Affairs

The 457 visa was replaced with the Temporary Skill Shortage Visa (TSS) 482 but the list of occupations that qualify for the 482, is significantly reduced. The new visas has been described as limited, expensive and with an intimidating amount of paper work.

People can apply for a refund of their visa fees but there are no guarantees. The employer's nomination fee of $330 is not refundable.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told The Irish Echo: "The Department assesses all valid visa applications unless the application is withdrawn. For individuals who have a 457 application in progress with the department, it is open to them to wait until a decision is made on their application. Refunds are only available in limited circumstances and does not include circumstances where an applicant has withdrawn their application due to change of mind."

The people affected by the situation are often in Australia on bridging visas. They may no longer be entitled to a four year visa. If they have to apply for a 482 visa, they may not be entitled to work rights under any new bridging visa while they wait for the application to be processed.

The Home Affairs Spokesperson continued: "The bridging visa held in association with a 482 visa application will remain valid until the 482 visa application is finalised. Applicants holding a bridging visa with no work rights may apply for permission to work. Each request is assessed on a case by case basis."

People who applied for 457 visas before 18th April 2017, when the new rules were announced by Malcolm Turnbull, were to be protected by the old rules and still avail of permanent residency applications, shorter temporary transition periods before applying for permanent residency and the higher age bracket. But these may not apply if they have to make a new application for a 482.

The Department fo Home Affairs says: "Transitional arrangements were put in place in March 2018, in relation to certain requirements for people who held or applied for a subclass 457 visa before 18 April 2017.

Changes to the visa rules have made it more difficult for many skilled workers.

Changes to the visa rules have made it more difficult for many skilled workers.

"People who held a 457 visa before March 2018 and meet the various requirements, including being nominated in an eligible occupation, can apply for permanent residence through the Direct Entry (DE) stream of the subclass 186 or 187 visa.

"People who held a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017, or had applied for a subclass 457 visa on 18 April 2017 that was subsequently granted, are able to access certain existing provisions under the Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream.

"Eligible overseas workers will need to lodge an application for permanent residence within four years, by March 2022."

Thousands of Irish availed of the 457 following the economic crash ten years ago.

The new visa has also limited availability and is only obtainable as a short-term visa, for a maximum two years, or a medium-term visa up to four years.

Brian (not his real name) is one of those caught in an immigration no-man’s land.

He came to Australia with his wife and two children. He has been on a 457 since 2014 as a carpenter. His first employer nominated him for permanent residence. Brian spent $7,000+ agents' fees on the permanent residence application. Then his employer went out of business before the PR was granted. As a result, Brian’s PR visa was not granted. He lost the $7,000+ and had to start again.

Brian then had to move his 457 visa to a new employer, but his visa only had a few months left so he had to then apply for a new 457 visa. He paid new 457 fees of $2,700. He applied for his second 457 visa in December 2017. The employer’s part was granted in October 2017 so expired in October 2018. Brian’s second 457 visa cannot now be granted.

Brian will be forced to re-apply for a 482 visa. The 482 visa costs are more than double the fees he paid for the 457 visas. 482 visa fees will be $5,500.

Brian's employer lost $330 on the first application, but will now be forced to pay the new Skilling Australians Fund (SAF) levy of $7,200 to lodge the new nomination. A huge cost that will surely deter a lot of employers from even agreeing to proceed.

It was also reported in October that more than 630 Irish people had been deported from Australia over the last two years according to figures released by the Australian Department of Home Affairs.

Overstaying a visa, having a visa cancelled or invalid visas were the most common reasons for their deportation.

Working holiday visa age limit increased to 35


From today, the reciprocal age limit for Irish and Australian citizens to get a Working Holiday visa has been increased to 35.

Before today, applicants had to be no more than 30 years old to get a ‘backpacker’ visa.

The increased age limit for Australia in only available to Irish and Canadian citizens.

Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman said the new arrangements will strengthen Australia's close and long standing ties with Ireland.

"Both Canada and Ireland have been part of Australia's Working Holiday Maker program since it began in 1975, so it is fitting that they are the first countries to become eligible for the extended age range," Mr Coleman said.  "Last year, more than 16,000 citizens from Canada and Ireland were granted Working Holiday visas for Australia, with many of them living and working in regional and rural areas during their stay."

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the change would “not only allow a more diverse group of people to avail of this scheme, but also help to strengthen those links between our two countries even further”.

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, who is visiting Australia on official business, added: “Since the Working Holiday Programme began in 1975, it is estimated that more than 275,000 young Irish people have spent up to two years in Australia under this scheme. In 2017 alone, some 8,653 visas were issued to Irish citizens under the Working Holiday Programme. The agreement to extend the age eligibility on a reciprocal basis underscores the wide-reaching success of this programme to date.”

The Working Holiday visa (subclass 417) is a temporary visa for young people who want to holiday and work in Australia for up to a year. You must be outside Australia when you apply for your first Working Holiday visa and when the visa is decided. If you apply for a second Working Holiday visa, you must be in Australia when the visa is granted. If you apply outside Australia, you must be outside Australia when the visa is granted. You can generally only work six months with one employer but many Irish nationals use the visa as a stepping stone for employer sponsorship and eventually, permanent migration.


Global Irish fun run gets into stride again

Tadhg Kennelly and former Sydney Swans team-mate Michael O'Loughlin at the 2017 Sydney 5k run.

Tadhg Kennelly and former Sydney Swans team-mate Michael O'Loughlin at the 2017 Sydney 5k run.

Seventeen cities, eight countries, one global nation.

The Ireland Fund’s Global 5k run will get into stride again on September 22. 

Events will take place in Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne to raise money for causes in Australia and Ireland. 

The global patron for the run is Irish Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan, who will take to the field in Melbourne this year. The Sydney run will be led by former Sydney Swans star Tadhg Kennelly. 

“It’s hard to believe we’re in the fifth year of this event,” said John Gallagher, chairman of the Ireland Fund Australia Sydney Young Leaders.

“It’s grown every year but we are really hopeful that this is the year that the run becomes a really established, fun event for runners, walkers, families, pets, anyone who likes, on the Irish Australian community calendar in all three cities. 

“We’re thrilled to have the support again of both Sonia O’Sullivan and Tadhg Kennelly, helping us to raise much-needed funds for worthy causes in Ireland and Australia.”

Starting in Brisbane at 7am, with the baton handed to Sydney and then over to Melbourne, the young leaders will run 5kms in their respective cities before passing the virtual baton. 

The Global 5k will conclude when the last young leader crosses the finish line in San Francisco. 

“It’s a really excellent event,”
Kennelly said. “I brought the family along last year; tried out my knees again for the first time in a few years. 

“And it’s a very Irish take on a fitness event – we all get the exercise in first, and the sausages and goodies afterwards! I enjoyed the chat and the craic and meeting everyone last year.” 

People can support the event by signing up to run, by volunteering on the day, by sponsoring a runner or making a donation. 

All runners get an event T-shirt, plus a delicious breakfast BBQ after the race. Sponsorship packages are also available. 

Global 5k runs take place in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, New York, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Toronto, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Belfast, Dublin and London.

Australian visa slump slammed by business groups

Australia is making it harder for skilled migrants to get permanent residency.

Australia is making it harder for skilled migrants to get permanent residency.

Migration to Australia has been slashed to its lowest level in more than a decade after the federal government put tough new hurdles in place.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has claimed that the fall in numbers was a consequence of the government meticulously going through applications to weed out unsuitable claims.

“We’re making sure that people who do become part of our Australian family are coming here to work, not to lead a life on welfare,” Mr Dutton said.

But business lobby groups, migration agents and representatives of ethnic groups have criticised the cuts, warning of economic damage if the numbers are allowed to fall further. 

Groups representing more than 60,000 Australian businesses have criticised the Turnbull government’s cuts to skilled and family migration.

Australia took in 20,000 fewer permanent migrants than in the previous financial year, mostly becasue of a 12,000 drop in skilled visas and an 8,000 drop in family visas.

The Australian Industry Group, one of the nation’s leading business groups, said the cut was disappointing.

“We are strong supporters of the migration program and to see it drop so significantly below the 2017-18 intake ceiling is disappointing,” AIG’s chief executive, Innes Willox, said.

Mr Willox said it was to the government’s credit that skilled visas still made up the same percentage of the intake, at about 68 per cent.

However, he encouraged the government to “get closer to reaching the ceiling” of 190,000 places this financial year. The official cap is still set at 190,000, despite real numbers falling short this year.

“Skilled migrants generate the greatest economic benefits to the Australian community, through their direct contributions to our national employment and skills base,” Mr Willox said. “Many also bring specialist attributes that provide even bigger benefits, by deepening our entrepreneurship, innovation and international linkages.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry blasted the cuts, arguing employers were paying the political price for the government’s failure to keep up with infrastructure demands in growing cities. 

“This is a real crisis,” the chamber’s CEO James Pearson said. 

“This is a problem right now, particularly for regional businesses serving regional communities. Politicians have failed to plan properly for the population growth in Sydney and Melbourne and regional Australia is now paying the price because of this cutback in our skilled migration by stealth.”

Both sides of politics have praised the lower numbers with Labor leader Bill Shorten vowing to clamp down on the number of temporary work visas. 

“No temporary visa worker should be here for a day longer than it takes to train an Australian,” Mr Shorten told the Australian Financial Review.

Are you reconsidering your future in Australia because of the visa clampdown? Tell us your story. Email

Honeymooning Irishman dies in Greek inferno

Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp who died in the Gree bushfires.

Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp who died in the Gree bushfires.

An Irishman has died while on honeymoon after becoming caught up in wildfires that have swept across Greece.

Newly married Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp became separated from his wife Zoe Holohan as they tried to escape the fires in the coastal town of Mati.

The pair got married at Clonabreany House, Kells in Co Meath last Thursday before flying out to Greece on Saturday.

Ms Holohan, who works in advertising for the Sunday World, is in hospital after suffering burns to her head and hands.

In a statement, the family of Ms Holohan and Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp said: "We are deeply saddened to confirm the death of our family member, Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp.

"The families would respectfully appreciate privacy at this time as we grieve and as Zoe makes her recovery.

"Funeral arrangement will be announced at a later stage."

Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp and bride Zoe at their recent wedding.

Brian O'Callaghan-Westropp and bride Zoe at their recent wedding.

Ireland's Ambassador to Greece Orla O'Hanrahan confirmed Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp's death.

She said her sympathies and heart went out to his family at this time.

The couple, who lived in Dublin, were travelling in a vehicle when they were forced to flee.

Ms Holohan was able to escape to a nearby beach and was admitted to hospital on Tuesday night.

The Irish Embassy in Athens is providing consular assistance to Ms Holohan and her family.

Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp worked in finance for a Dublin catering company and also volunteered for Blood Bikes East, which provides an emergency medical transport service around hospitals in Dublin.

Committee member Franco De Bonis said Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp started off as a volunteer rider a year ago and very quickly became further involved in the service and was its secretary.

"Brian is a very charitable man - he's one of these people who you know when he's in the room. He has a big voice and he's the type who wants to get things done," Mr De Bonis said.

"He's a man of action and is very selfless. His heart is in the right place and will always want to help.

"Brian would never walk away from a situation knowing someone needed help," he added.

Up to 80 people have died in the forest fires which have raged through Greek villages and holiday resorts.

Pension shake-up may hit returning emigrants hardest

Ireland's Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó'Caollaí

Ireland's Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó'Caollaí

IRELAND’S Ambassador to Australia has played down concerns that returning emigrants could be worse off by proposed Irish pension reforms, saying most people’s entitlements would be largely the same.

Breandán Ó Caollaí said the proposed overhaul of how a person’s State pension is calculated (see below) would be “a fairer approach for all.”

One of the more controversial proposals is that a person may need to make 40 years of social security contributions to claim the full State pension. This is in contrast to the current system where someone could qualify for a full pension based on just 10 years’ payments, provided they had no gaps in their employment record.

Mr Ó Caollaí said this scenario was “quite rare” and “an anomaly”. 

The example given in the Government’s consultation paper is of someone who worked in the UK between the ages of 17 and 52 and worked up to a full UK pension, then moved to Ireland and worked for 13 years before retirement. Under the current system, they would also get a 100 per cent Irish pension on top of their British one.

It is in contrast to other scenarios in the consultation paper of people who worked for much longer but got a smaller pension. 

One is a woman who worked from the ages of 17-20 and then cared for children for 20 years. She went back to work for another 22 years but would only receive an 85 per cent pension under the averaging system.

Under the new way of calculating pensions, the person in the first scenario would only get a 33 per cent pension while the second person would get 100 per cent. 

While these scenarios had very different outcomes under the old and new systems, Mr Ó Caollaí said that people with "normal emigration patterns" would have mostly similar entitlements.

“Most people can claim pensions from both jurisdictions they worked under, and receive two pensions,” he said. “While both pensions might be at a reduced rate, their combined payment will quite possibly be greater than a single pension.” 

Emigrants returning to live in Ireland may be disadvantaged by new rules for state pensions.

Emigrants returning to live in Ireland may be disadvantaged by new rules for state pensions.

People who worked in Australia also have the option of claiming a pro-rata pension under the Irish Australian Social Security Agreement if this is more beneficial to them.

Under the agreement, periods of working life in Australia are treated by Ireland as periods of insurance, and vice versa. These periods are added together to meet the minimum periods required for the pensions offered by each country.

Ashley Johnston of the Irish Welfare Centre in Sydney said they could direct people of pension age to the appropriate social welfare service “to receive sound and comprehensive
advice regarding their entitlements and pension queries.”

The proposals are explained in a consultation paper, on which interested Irish citizens can give feedback on until September 3, 2018. To make a submission go to and clicking ‘consultations’. 

How are Irish State pensions currently calculated?

State pensions are currently calculated using the yearly average approach. Your total number of social security contributions is divided by the number of years between first starting work and the last full year before retirement. A yearly average of 48 is required for a full pension. This method penalises those with big gaps in their employment record, eg for child-rearing. Under the proposed reform, pensions would be calculated using the Total Contributions Approach (TCA). Pensions would be based on the total number of Social Security Contributions a person made. Controversially, as many as 40 years of contributions could be needed to get a full State pension, although the Government stresses the number of years has not been decided yet. People who left the workforce to care for children will receive credited contributions that will count towards their pension entitlement.

Is applying for a pro-rata pension under the Social Security Agreement between Ireland and Australia a separate application process? Do you choose one or the other?

No, you apply for the State pension in the ordinary way. The application form requests (among other things) details of any employment abroad. When assessing your claim, the official will first see if you can qualify for a full rate pension in the normal way. If you do, there is no need to check overseas contribution records etc. If you do not, he or she will then go through a number of checks to see what method of qualification will give you the highest possible payment. If you have indicated you have a foreign employment record, this will be one of the options considered.

Answers supplied by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Ireland launch bid for UN Security Council seat

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in New York for the launch of Ireland's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in New York for the launch of Ireland's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

The Taoiseach has said that the country will bring its "practical lessons" in helping end the conflict in Northern Ireland to the United Nations Security Council.

As Ireland officially launched its campaign for a seat at the top UN table, Leo Varadkar said its success in bringing peace to Northern Ireland following its long history of division has given Ireland a "perspective on conflict resolution and reconciliation".

U2 front man Bono and former Irish president Mary Robinson are also backing the bid.

On Sunday night, UN ambassadors were invited to a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden as part of the Irish push to win the seat.

Mr Varadkar and Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney officially launched Ireland's campaign on Monday night at UN headquarters with a special event celebrating Irish food, music heritage and culture.

More than 400 UN diplomats and other guests were invited to attend the reception on the UN's North Lawn.

Mr Varadkar said: "Our perspective on conflict resolution and reconciliation is informed by the long history of conflict and division on our island, and our success in bringing it to an end.

"We learned that it takes two to fight, but many to make a lasting peace.

"This year is the 20th anniversary of the Northern Ireland peace agreement.

"While the path to full reconciliation remains incomplete, the Good Friday Agreement has stood the test of time, creating new relationships, overcoming centuries-old divisions, and giving hope for the future.

"We understand the need to listen, and the importance of respecting differences.

"On the UN Security Council, we would bring our hard-won insights and practical lessons to the table.

"As a nation that has experienced colonisation, conflict, famine and mass migration, Ireland's lived history resonates with the aims and objectives of the UN Charter.

"Ireland has a longstanding commitment to working for the eradication of poverty and hunger in the world."

The reception took place beside the Arrival sculpture, by Irish artist John Behan, which was gifted to the UN by Ireland in 2000.

Mr Varadkar also said that the Irish Government launched a strategy to double the scope and impact of Ireland's global footprint by 2025 as well as opening 13 new embassies and consulates in the past year.

He also said: "We are deeply aware that, in an interdependent world, the challenges of our time do not respect geographic boundaries.

"Finding solutions is a shared responsibility.

"This sense of shared responsibility guides Ireland's view of the world and the part we play in it."

Ireland will be competing for one of two seats available for the 2021-22 term with Canada and Norway. The Taoiseach said he does not underestimate the competition for the seat, but believes Ireland can win it.

St Patrick's Day will be a UK holiday under PM Corbyn

Leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

Leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

St Patrick’s Day will be a public holiday in Britain if Labour wins the next election.

Labour will press ahead with plans to introduce new national holidays to mark the patron saints of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, if it wins the next general election.

After eight years of “damaging Tory austerity”, Britain’s workers deserve a day off, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said last week.

Labour will ask for the support of the governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so that the same four holidays can be enjoyed in all regions.

Under Labour’s proposals, public holidays will be held on St David’s Day (March 1), St Patrick’s Day (March 17), St George’s Day (April 23) and St Andrew’s Day (November 30).With eight public holidays, Britain has the fewest of any G20 or EU country.

“If we win the next election, St George’s Day will become a national holiday for Britain’s workers. It will be a day where we can all show our pride and celebrate our country’s tradition of fairness, inclusivity and social justice” Mr Corbyn said.

 “Eight years of Tory austerity, which Labour will bring to an end, have had a disastrous effect on our vital public services and workers have paid a heavy price in the cost of living and their working lives.

 “We will give our workers four extra days paid holiday.

 “The four nations that make up our country are more divided as a result of the damaging and divisive policies of this Conservative government.”

Excluded voters keen to be heard

Supporting a ‘yes’ vote: Christine Howell, Shauna Stanley, Gary Hansell, organiser Lizzie O'Shea, Pam Lowe, Jimmy Yan and Grace Carroll at Melbourne’s Drunken Poet.

Supporting a ‘yes’ vote: Christine Howell, Shauna Stanley, Gary Hansell, organiser Lizzie O'Shea, Pam Lowe, Jimmy Yan and Grace Carroll at Melbourne’s Drunken Poet.

Almost all Irish citizens living in Australia are not allowed to vote in the referendum on abortion. Irish diplomatic staff can but that's about it.

The vote, on May 25, will ask people to consider repealling the 8th amendment, which prohibits abortion in almost all circumstances.

But a series of events have been held in Sydney and Melbourne advocating for a ‘yes’ vote. 

Diaspora Downunder Dollars for Choice (#ddd4c) is a campaign aiming for 30 events around Australia to fundraise for Together for Yes.

Convenor of the Irish Pro Choice group Shauna Stanley said it was frustrating that expats “cannot get our voices heard at the ballot box” but “we can contribute some of our hard-earned Australian dollars to give the Together for Yes campaign every chance for success”.

DDD4C has received pledges from all around Australia, including themed parties, events and a pub quiz at Melbourne’s Drunken Poet pub.

“We have had an amazing response, with lots of creative ideas from supporters all over the country. It’s been hugely inspiring to see this kind of grassroots organising. 

“Irish people always love good craic, but have shown themselves to be extra keen to get on board for this cause,” Stanley said.  

Louise Nealon, Ann Marie Crotty and Loretta Cosgrove at the Sydney fundraiser for the Yes campaign at 34Bia in Redfern, Sydney.

Louise Nealon, Ann Marie Crotty and Loretta Cosgrove at the Sydney fundraiser for the Yes campaign at 34Bia in Redfern, Sydney.

“This has a movement led by women organising to demand their rights, against a well-funded anti-choice lobby. We may be 20,000 kilometres away, but we can feel the international reach of the sisterhood,” said Stanley.

Fellow campaigner Elaine Arnold said “We wanted to [find] a way of collectively contributing towards positive progression in Ireland.”

Supporters of a ‘yes’ vote also gathered at the Irish-owned 34 Bia restaurant last weekend for a fundraiser. Organised by Louise Nealon and Ann Marie Crotty, tickets included a full Irish breakfast and a donation to the Together for Yes campaign in Ireland.  Ticket sales and raffle raised more than $2000.

Returning emigrants face many obstacles, report finds

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IRISH emigrants in Australia say housing and car insurance costs are the biggest barriers to returning home. The findings are contained in a new report that also proposes ways to tackle the problems.

The independent report, commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs, looks at the challenges facing returning emigrants worldwide. It makes 30 recommendations about how to cut the red tape and make the move home easier.

As part of their research, the report’s authors, Indecon, surveyed more than 1,100 returned emigrants and emigrants living abroad – including Australia – about the barriers they faced on returning to Ireland. The biggest obstacles cited by all Irish emigrants were: buying or renting a house; getting a mortgage; car insurance costs and the paperwork needed to open a bank account or transfer savings or pensions, the survey found.

“The cost of car insurance is going to force us back to Australia,” one respondent told the researchers. Another said: “It is impossible to get a mortgage. Added to that the price of rentals and I am in a crazy living situation.”

Other major issues were finding employment – particularly with the requirement for face-to-face interviews – and the difficulty of having professional qualifications recognised.

Health insurance, childcare, access to welfare and higher education costs were also significant concerns.

“My son, who has just finished high school in Australia, cannot move home for university because he is now considered a foreign student,” another respondent said. “He was born in Ireland and has always considered himself Irish but because we, his parents, left for work, he is now not allowed to move home for university.”

Respondents living in Australia and New Zealand viewed many issues even more negatively than respondents living in other countries, or those already returned to Ireland. Perhaps this is not surprising because the report notes that people who emigrated to non-EU countries face more barriers when they try to return.


More than 80 per cent of survey respondents living in Australia or New Zealand believed buying or renting a home in Ireland, or getting a mortgage, was either difficult or very difficult. More than 50 per cent viewed opening a bank account as difficult or very difficult. 

Overall, car insurance was the biggest area of concern for those returning from Australia, with 81.6 per cent rating it as very difficult.

The problem is the Irish insurance companies often do not recognise a no-claims bonus from overseas. In response to all these issues, the report has made 30 recommendations on removing unnecessary administrative or other barriers.

The numbers of returning emigrants prove there is a need for urgent action. The report found that more than 26,000 Irish emigrants returned to Ireland in 2016 – 20 per cent of those from Australia. 

On the issue of bringing down the cost of car insurance for returning emigrants, Indecon has recommended promoting companies that offer noclaims discounts to returning emigrants and introducing measures to remove unjustified penalties for these motorists.

To help returning emigrants with housing, the report recommends extending eligibility for the government’s Help to Buy scheme. The scheme gives a tax rebate to first-home buyers. However, at present anyone who has lived overseas for more than four years is not eligible. The report recommends extending eligibility to people who paid tax in Ireland in the last 14 to 15 years.

In its conclusion, Indecon said some of its 30 recommendations will require significant changes but adds: “Given the extent of the barriers faced by our returning emigrants we believe these [changes] are justified.”

On a positive note, one of the key recommendations has already been implemented. A centralised Returning to Ireland website, with advice on everything from setting up home to setting up bank accounts, is now live on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Global Irish website.

Government departments must report on their progress in implementing the rest of the 30 recommendations before summer. The full report and recommendations can be accessed at:

Presidential honour for Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson at Aras an Uachtarain with President Michael D Higgins and wife Sabina. Picture: Laura Hutton

Liam Neeson at Aras an Uachtarain with President Michael D Higgins and wife Sabina. Picture: Laura Hutton

Ballymena actor honoured by President, speaks out on #metoo 'witch-hunt'

AN emotional Liam Neeson has received an award from the President of Ireland for his contribution to the country and humanity.

Receiving the honour, the Irish actor revealed that he was wary of giving public addresses. “My fear, and it’s a genuine fear, is public speaking.

“Everyone says ‘oh, you’re an actor, you should be good at that.’ It’s just not true,” he said. Neeson was presented with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award by President Michael D Higgins. The award highlights the outstanding work by Irish people living overseas across a range of areas, from sport to science, charity or community support.

Neeson, who appeared slightly emotional as he received the award, said he was “honoured” and “very humbled”. He said he would continue to “fly the flag for Irish arts” and the charity Unicef, of which he is a goodwill ambassador. President Higgins described the Ballymena native as a “splendid Irish man abroad” and a “worthy recipient” of the award. “We started the awards in 2012 to give recognition to the contribution of Irish people living abroad who have made a distinguished contribution, not just to Ireland, but to humanity in general. And indeed, that is the case in the case of Liam Neeson”, he said.

Mr Higgins added: “I think our reason for having the award is to be able to say the Irish family isn’t defined by national borders or territories. “It is defined by care, compassion, a shared culture and heritage, a common sense of responsibility, a consciousness of our historic experience and also the importance of Ireland contributing dynamically to a future that would be humane and more compassionate and just. Liam Neeson qualifies by all of this criteria”.

Of the sixty awards presented to date, only two have been awarded to Irish Australians, the late Jim Stynes and author Tom Keneally. The citation for Neeson’s award reads: “As an extremely gifted and internationally renowned film actor, Liam Neeson has helped to raise Ireland’s profile and awareness of Ireland and Irish artists around the world, especially in the United States where he is based.


Harassment scandal now witch-hunt

LIAM Neeson says that the Hollywood sexual harassment scandal has sparked “a bit of a witch-hunt”. Asked about the issue on the Late Late Show, Neeson, 65, said: “There is a bit of a witch hunt happening too.

“There’s some people, famous people, being suddenly accused of touching some girl’s knee or something and suddenly they’re being dropped from their programme....” He said that he was “on the fence” about allegations levelled at Dustin Hoffman.

“When you’re doing a play and you’re with your family, other actors and technicians, you do silly things. You do silly things and it becomes superstitious. If you don’t do it every night you think it’s going to jinx the show,” the Irish star said. “I think Dustin Hoffman... I’m not saying I’ve done similar things like what he did. Apparently he touched a girl’s breast and stuff... it’s childhood stuff.”

Last year, actress Anna Graham Hunter alleged Hoffman groped her and made inappropriate comments when she was a 17-year-old intern on the set of the 1985 TV movie Death Of A Salesman. Playwright Cori Thomas accused him of exposing himself to her in New York in 1980, when she was 16.

In response to Hunter’s allegations, Hoffman issued a statement saying the incident “is not reflective of who I am”. Neeson said of the #MeToo movement: “It’s healthy and it’s across every industry. The focus seems to be on Hollywood at the minute, but it's across every industry."