Ireland

Ireland changes visa rules for de facto partners

The Irish government has launched a new ‘pre-clearance process’ which they say will make it easier for Irish emigrants to return home with their non-EEA de facto partners.

The changes, which impact directly on Irish emigrants returning to Ireland from Australia, has been welcomed by migration advocates but some concerns remain about timing issues and possible processing delays.

The new pre-clearance system introduces for the first time the possibility to apply for a visa to enter Ireland as a non-EEA partner from a non-visa required country (such as Australia) in advance of travelling to Ireland.

Until now, these partners would have applied for immigration permission on arrival in Ireland and would wait for up to six months for a decision before they would be allowed to work.

This had been widely deemed by Irish citizens as a deterrent from returning to Ireland with their non-EEA partners from countries like Australia, Canada and the USA.

Comment: Emigrants should be the main focus of diaspora policy

This change has been lobbied for by many stakeholders, including Crosscare Migrant Project in Ireland, who provide information and advocacy to many Irish migrants inquiring about the de facto rules.

Under the new rules de facto partners from both visa and non-visa required countries must apply for a de facto visa in advance of travelling and have received a pre-clearance permission letter if they wish to stay for longer than 90 days and work in Ireland.

The new system does not seem to offer any option to arrive and then apply.

Crosscare policy officer Danielle McLaughlin said: “In general we think this will be fine, but for emergency returns (such as coming home to care for a loved one, or if someone is deported) it could cause problems. We hope that discretion will be applied in emergency cases, for either very quick processing or to allow people enter Ireland with their Irish partner and then apply.”

The new system has no impact on the system for spouses or civil partners. They can continue to travel to Ireland and get permission on arrival subject to normal Irish visa rules.

All applications will be processed by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) in Dublin.

Embassies will only continue to play a role in accepting visa applications, but these too are processed in Dublin or in an INIS visa office.

Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan believes the new rules will encourage more emigrants to return to Ireland.

Irish Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan believes the new rules will encourage more emigrants to return to Ireland.

Crosscare’s Project Officer Richard King, writing in The Irish Times, welcomed the new scheme but cautioned that inefficient processing times could cause frustration for applicants.

“The success of the pre-clearance system will in a large part come down to the efficiency of the processing,” he wrote. “A long delay or uncertain processing times could have a huge impact on those returning. For example, couples with children need the assurance of being able to get a response in time to put everything else in motion and get back before the school year starts.”

Ireland’s Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he hoped the new system “will encourage more people to come home”.

“In recent times, many of our young and our most highly educated citizens have emigrated,”he said.

“They may have wanted to further their careers, make more money, or simply to experience the wider world. While away, some have met life partners and perhaps even started their own families. We want to show these people that Ireland is ready to welcome them home and that we will provide a clear immigration and labour market pathway for their de facto partners.

“By allowing people to obtain preclearance before they arrive we can speed up the process and provide certainty about being able to access the labour market on arrival, once registered with INIS. In the past this could have taken up to a year, which is a long time when you are trying to build a new life in a new country”.

Full details and further information on the revised arrangements, including the criteria for obtaining preclearance, are set-out in the INIS website www.inis.gov.ie

 


Schmidt elevates Leinster playmaker for England clash

Joe Schmidt has backed rookie playmaker Ross Byrne to seize his World Cup chance in Saturday's clash with England at Twickenham.

The game can be seen live on BeIn Sports from 11.30pm AEDT on Saturday.

Leinster star Byrne will make his full Test debut and win just his third cap this weekend, with Ireland not risking Johnny Sexton after Joey Carbery's ankle injury.

Carbery could well miss the World Cup after damaging ankle ligaments in the 29-10 victory over Italy in Dublin on August 10.

Byrne and replacement Jack Carty can now make their case for World Cup selection at Twickenham, with head coach Schmidt assessing all his fly-half options.

"Ross has trained really well and it's not his debut, he's had time with us before, so we've got a lot of confidence in him anyway and I think he built his way through the season," said Schmidt.

Joe Schmidt has selected a strong team to face England at Twickenham.

Joe Schmidt has selected a strong team to face England at Twickenham.

"I thought he was maybe not as impressive as Jack early in the season, and I think those two have become really important to us.

"Joey has done well this week. Johnny, he's fine, but he missed a bit of time with his thumb, so he's a little bit behind and we know how well he plays for us. We don't feel that he needs a lot of time with the experience that he's got.

"So, for us, the guys that need the time are probably Ross and Jack and they've got the opportunity to do that this weekend, that they'll share a bit of time, I'd say, in the middle."

Frontline fly-half Sexton has been recovering from a thumb sprain, and Carbery's ankle injury has whittled down Ireland's playmaking options for their World Cup warm-up encounters.

Schmidt admitted Byrne and Carty's stock has risen markedly in the wake of Carbery's ankle blow.

"They were always really important because it is such a specialist position, but they probably wouldn't have had this opportunity as much," said Schmidt.

"Joey, especially on the back of his 50 minutes against Italy, I thought he was as good as I've seen him. "I thought he controlled the game really well. He's always a threat individually running and carrying the ball, but I just thought his control of the game was very, very good.

"So, for him, the frustration is not being able to get that opportunity to continue that. It's probably a frustration for us as well, but it's somebody else's opportunity and I know that Ross has trained well this week and is very, very motivated to do the job for us on Saturday."

Joe Carbery is ferried from the field in tears after injuring his ankle in the World Cup warm-up clash with Italy in Dublin.

Joe Carbery is ferried from the field in tears after injuring his ankle in the World Cup warm-up clash with Italy in Dublin.

Asked if Byrne is a more direct replacement for Sexton in style terms, Schmidt continued: "A little bit, that's probably a fair observation.

"I think Ross' ability to control the game, it's one of the things that was defining between Joey and him at Leinster, probably in that Ross ran the game and Joey ran really well individually. But I think it's also something that comes with a rhythm and game time.

"Jack, whenever he came off the bench for us in the Six Nations, I thought he did a super job. "So we have a lot of confidence in Jack being able to control the game and we do think he can bring a bit of a change up off the bench. "Either way, I think they'll both get a bit of game time on Saturday to demonstrate what they can bring to the game."

IRELAND TEAM TO FACE ENGLAND: R Kearney, J Larmour, G Ringrose (all Leinster), B Aki (Connacht), J Stockdale (Ulster), R Byrne (Leinster), C Murray (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster, capt), T Furlong (Leinster), I Henderson (Ulster), J Kleyn, P O'Mahony (both Munster), J Van Der Flier (Leinster), CJ Stander (Munster). Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), J McGrath (Ulster), A Porter, D Toner (both Leinster), T Beirne (Munster), L McGrath (Leinster), J Carty (Connacht), A Conway (Munster).

Irish dad's ashes found after baggage blunder

Losing a piece of luggage is very stressful for international travellers but when that case contains the ashes of a beloved relative, the pain is acute.

This is what happened to the Gilmour family from Tasmania enroute to Ireland last week.

Bob Gilmour (63) and his family had travelled from Australia with the remains of his parents to fulfil their wishes of being laid to rest in their Irish and English birthplaces.

But when they landed in Dublin last Saturday off a flight from Italy, Mr Gilmour made the grim discovery that his luggage, and the ashes, were nowhere to be found.

However, after a scramble by Aer Lingus staff to locate the bags they were finally found on Tuesday at Milan’s Malpensa Airport where they had been forgotten by baggage handlers.

Mr Gilmour told The Irish Times a massive weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

“It feels great,” he said of the prospect of being able to scatter his father’s ashes over his grandparents’ grave in his hometown of Ballymena, Co Antrim.

The luggage containing Sam Gilmour’s ashes were discovered at Milan’s Malpensa Airport.

The luggage containing Sam Gilmour’s ashes were discovered at Milan’s Malpensa Airport.

“I know it’s what he wanted. I am sure he will be at peace knowing that he is at home with his mum and dad.”

Bob’s late father Sam Gilmour met his wife Marjorie, who was from Birmingham, while serving in the Royal Air Force during the second World War. They later married and in 1967 emigrated with their 11-year-old son Bob to Australia.

Before their deaths, the couple said they wanted to have their remains brought back to their respective home countries and scattered on family graves. So when Bob Gilmour’s youngest daughter was offered the opportunity to train at a ballet school in Italy the family seized the opportunity.

“Honestly my dad would be laughing his head off,” he said of the drama.

An Aer Lingus spokesman said the airline was very sorry over the blunder.

“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused,” the spokesman said.

Most airlines, including Aer Lingus, permit passengers to carry ashes contained in an urn as either checked or cabin baggage.

“The undertaker or funeral director must ensure that the urn is secured in a padded, leak-proof container that is not made of metal, as it must pass through an X-ray machine,” the Aer Lingus website says.

“The urn is then part of your normal baggage allowance. You must be in possession of a death certificate and cremation certificate to be allowed carry ashes on board.”

Adare Manor to host 2026 Ryder Cup

Ireland has ridden the crest of The Open wave to host the Ryder Cup for the first time in 20 years.

Ryder Cup bosses have admitted the overwhelming success of the major's return to Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland last week tipped the scales for Adare Manor to stage the biennial challenge in 2026.

The Government of Ireland agreed a deal with Ryder Cup chiefs for the Limerick course to become Ireland's first host venue since the K Club in 2006.

European Ryder Cup director Guy Kinnings admitted there were precious few hesitations in selecting Adare Manor.

"This is a world-class venue, both in terms of the golf course and the wider resort facilities," said Kinnings.

"Months of careful negotiation behind the scenes have seen us arrive at this point and we could not be happier to be able to take golf's greatest team contest back to Ireland.

Adare Manor owner JP McManus (right) and general manager Colm Hannon.

Adare Manor owner JP McManus (right) and general manager Colm Hannon.

"Equally in receipt of our appreciation are Adare Manor owners JP and Noreen McManus and their entire team at the magnificent County Limerick venue. JP has shown unwavering support for golf and the European Tour over many years and we are delighted that Adare Manor will be the venue to showcase the next chapter in Ireland's Ryder Cup story in seven years' time.

"Aside from having provided three captains over the past four editions, in addition to world-class talent such as Rory McIlroy, Irish players such as the late Christy O'Connor Jnr, Philip Walton, Eamonn Darcy, Graeme McDowell and Paul McGinley are intrinsically linked with providing Europe's winning moments over the years.

"Added to that the fact that Irish golf fans are rightly recognised as some of the most knowledgeable and passionate in the world, as was shown during Shane Lowry's emotional Open Championship triumph at Royal Portrush on Sunday, there was no question in our minds that the time was right."

Northern Ireland's Royal Portrush last week hosted The Open for the first time in 68 years, and the tournament's overwhelming success has handed the island of Ireland an immediate boost.

The Adare Manor resort was revamped in 2014 at a cost of €70 million.

The Adare Manor resort was revamped in 2014 at a cost of €70 million.

That feel-good factor was hoisted by home favourite Shane Lowry sweeping his maiden major title, and now Irish golf has received another shot in the arm.

Irish racehorse owner JP McManus bought Adare Manor in December 2014, and revamped the entire resort at a cost of a reported €70 million.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hailed both a sporting and economic boost for Ireland.

"I am delighted that Ireland will be the host of The Ryder Cup in 2026," said Varadkar.

"It is great news for Ireland, and for County Limerick and the west of Ireland in particular. This news comes at the end of an historic week for golf on the island of Ireland, following the hugely successful hosting of the Open Championship by Royal Portrush Golf Club, and the historic victory by one of Ireland's most popular sporting heroes, Shane Lowry.

"Shane's victory is one of many great achievements by Irish golfers, not just in Major Championships but also in The Ryder Cup. Over the years, Irish captains and Irish players have played a huge role in the success of the European team.

"I am sure that when The Ryder Cup comes to Adare, we will see many more great sporting memories created, and great sporting friendships forged.

"It will be a fantastic occasion for everyone on the island of Ireland, and for the many visitors from both sides of the Atlantic who can look forward to another great Irish welcome."

Cool Irish reaction to Boris Johnson's victory

There has been mixed reaction from Ireland's politicians as Boris Johnson was announced as Britain’s new Conservative Party leader.

There has been widespread concern among some Irish politicians over how Mr Johnson's leadership will affect Ireland and the situation regarding the Irish border and Brexit.

Mr Johnson, who will become Britain’s Prime Minister later today, has recently compared solving the border issue with the moon landing, and in a BBC interview in 2018 compared it with the border between Camden and Westminster in London.

Government politicians were quick to welcome the new prime minister in waiting, making it clear they were happy to work with Mr Johnson, but Brexit remained the key priority in each message.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar posted on social media: "Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his election as party leader. Look forward to an early engagement on Brexit, Northern Ireland and bilateral relations."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and British Prime Minister-elect Boris Johnson pictured in Dublin in 2017. Picture: Brian Lawless

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and British Prime Minister-elect Boris Johnson pictured in Dublin in 2017. Picture: Brian Lawless

Later, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, first retweeted Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, who had written about reworking "the agreed Declaration on a new partnership in line with #EUCO guidelines", before writing his own post.

"Congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming leader of the UK Conservative Party - we will work constructively with him and his Govt to maintain and strengthen British/Irish relations through the challenges of Brexit," Mr Coveney said.

However, opposition politicians took a different stance.

Sinn Féin Brexit spokesman David Cullinane says it came as no surprise that Boris Johnson will become prime minister, but called on the Irish Government to hold steadfast in Brexit negotiations.

"We'd be very concerned that Boris is not going to make any serious effort to reach any kind of accommodation with the European Union," he said.

"He seems to believe the Irish government and the European Commission is going to blink on these matters, I don't think there's any appetite for any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, but it remains to be seen what will happen.

"The chances of a no-deal Brexit have been increasing, because it was quite obvious that while there is no appetite in the House of Commons for no deal, there's no sense what they're in favour of," Mr Cullinane added.

"Boris has been talking up a hard crash, in some respects encouraging a hard crash, that would be a disaster for Britain, a disaster for Ireland, I don't see any good in that for anybody, but again - that's outside our control, what we can do is that we hold the Irish government to account and they hold firm."

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett has said that the elevation of Boris Johnson to leader of the Tory Party and thus prime minister of the United Kingdom presents a "clear and present danger to Ireland" and "brings the prospect of no-deal and the imposition of a north-south border much closer".

He called Mr Johnson a "genuine danger" because of his "callous disregard for the impact of no-deal on Ireland, his allegiance to Donald Trump, his disgraceful comments about UK soldiers' actions on Bloody Sunday and his extreme right-wing views on just about every issue".

He added that Mr Coveney needed to tell Boris Johnson "in the clearest possible terms that a hard border between the north and south of this country is simply not an option".

Likewise, Irish Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said: "With 100 days until Brexit, it is time now for all politicians in Ireland to hold our nerve and be steadfast in defending our vital interests."

Sexting nurse's behaviour leads to Irish sanction

A nurse who texted a picture of his penis to a patient while working in Australia six years ago, has had his Irish registration suspended for a year.

While on night duty at Concord Hospital in Sydney in 2013, nurse Edward Keegan sent an explicit photograph to his partner.

Mr Keegan then left his personal mobile phone on the desk – and the photo of his penis on the screen – while he answered a call on the hospital ward phone.

ALSO READ: Fare war delivers great flight deals to Ireland

A drug and alcohol detox patient saw the photograph and, according to evidence given to the Administrative Appeals by Mr Keegan last year, began to pressure him into sharing the image.

Mr Keegan said the patient demanded he make contact after discharge in September 2013 because he wanted to see what was in the photograph "for real".

Concord Hospital where Mr Keegan worked as a nurse in 2013.

Concord Hospital where Mr Keegan worked as a nurse in 2013.

The experienced nurse said the patient left several threatening messages on his mobile phone, so he sent a text asking to be left alone, along with the explicit photograph, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard.

In January 2018, the tribunal disqualified Mr Keegan for two years, and would have cancelled his registration if it was still current, finding he failed to observe professional boundaries, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr Keegan resigned from his position after the incident came to light in 2015, and moved back to Ireland.

Earlier this week, the president of Ireland’s High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, confirmed sanctions sought by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) against Mr Keegan of Donacarney, Co Meath, who is on the Irish general nursing register.

The judge made orders suspending Mr Keegan's registration for a year, according to a report in the Irish Examiner.

A Fitness to Practice Committee of the NMBI held an inquiry after the Nursing and Midwifery Council of New South Wales notified the NMBI in 2016 that Mr Keegan's registration had been suspended there following allegations of "inappropriate contact" with a patient on dates in September 2013.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said he saw no reason not to confirm the proposed sanction.

Fare war delivers amazing flight deals to Ireland

Airlines are offering amazing flight deals to Ireland with return fares as low as $1039 on offer.

A fare war has broken out between carriers flying one-stop into Dublin from Australia’s major cities resulting in record low fares.

While an economy trip to Ireland at peak periods like Christmas can often cost close to $3,000, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Cathay Pacific are all promoting return fares under $1500 if people are prepared to fly between September and November or between January and May.

Flights to Dublin airport from Australia have never been cheaper.

Flights to Dublin airport from Australia have never been cheaper.

Until July 22, booking return flights from Perth to Dublin will set travellers back as little as $1,029* when flying with two or more people on Qatar Airways.

The Doha-based carrier is offering similar deals from Sydney ($1059), Melbourne ($1039), Adelaide ($1029) and Canberra ($1079).

To take advantage of the See the World Together offer, travellers need to book on select dates between September 21, 2019 and March 31, 2020, excluding the busy November to December Christmas period.

ALSO READ: Echo lists the Top 100 Irish Australians of all time

Cathay Pacific, the most recent carrier to offer a one-stop option into Dublin, also has a Global Sale on until the end of July.

Travellers can fly to Dublin return for as little as $1210** from Perth. The Hong Kong-based carrier is also offering great return economy fares from Sydney ($1326), Melbourne ($1310) and Brisbane ($1332). Some exclusion dates apply and travel must be completed by the end of May, 2020.

Etihad, meanwhile, is offering great return deals into Dublin from Melbourne ($1294***), Sydney ($1322) and Brisbane ($1477). Bookings must be made by July 26 and travel must be completed by May 31, 2020. Once again, exclusion dates and some terms and conditions apply.

*Qatar Terms and Conditions: Offer valid until 22 July 2019, unless sold out prior. Fares (AUD) quoted above are the lowest adult return prices per person including taxes, fees, and airport charges departing from the mentioned cities to Dublin when booked with one or more companions. Other sale dates may be available. ‘Companion’ refers to a minimum of two (2) and maximum of nine (9) people travelling together on the same booking for the entire journey. Economy Class companion fares shown above are for departures from 21 September - 22 November 2019, 23 December - 31 December 2019, and 12 January - 31 March 2020. Business Class companion fares shown above are for departures from 1 October - 30 November 2019, 23 December - 31 December 2019, and 1 February - 31 March 2020. Inbound blackout dates apply: in Economy Class between 25 September - 15 October 2019, 12 December - 22 December 2019, and 1 January - 26 January 2020; in Business Class between 15 September - 31 October 2019 and 10 December 2019 - 31 January 2020. All travel must be completed by 31 March 2020. Fares may vary due to currency fluctuations. Seasonal surcharges, weekend surcharges, and blackout periods may apply. For all other terms and conditions please review at time of booking.

** Cathay Pacific Terms and Conditions: Offer ends: 31 JUL 2019 23:59 (AEST) Departures: UK & Europe: 11 JUL 2019 – 26 JUN 2019; 8 JUL 2019 – 12 Dec 2019; 28 Dec 2019 – 31 MAY 2020. Prices displayed are based on the lowest fare available for travel in low season. Prices are inclusive of all taxes and surcharges, current as at 12 Jul 19. Seats are limited and availability may vary based on flight number, departure date and airport.

***Etihad Terms and Conditions: Discounts only valid for bookings until 26 Jul 2019, for travel until 31 May 2020. Fares are inclusive of applicable taxes, the break down will be shown during the online booking process. Weekend surcharges apply. Flight/day restriction and blackout periods may apply. The airport taxes are subject to change without prior notice and will be confirmed at the time of booking. For full list of destinations and detailed terms & conditions, visit etihad.com .

Would-be Irish citizens cannot leave the country, court rules

Legal experts have described as ‘absurd’ a High Court ruling which says that a person applying for Irish citizenship must not leave the country for an entire year before lodging their application.

The ruling came during a case in which an Australian man, Roderick Jones, challenged the Justice Minister’s refusal to grant his application to become a naturalised Irish citizen.

During the one year period before the date of the application, Mr Jones, who works in the university sector in Dublin, was out of Ireland for 100 days, 97 of them for holidays, RTE reported.

In order to apply for Irish citizenship, a judge has ruled that applicants must not leave the country for twelve months beforehand.

In order to apply for Irish citizenship, a judge has ruled that applicants must not leave the country for twelve months beforehand.

In previous cases, the Minister for Justice had allowed applicants to spend time out of the country for holidays and other reasons but Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled that this discretionary practice was not permitted by law.

The judge said that "might seem unfair" in a world where many people travel abroad for work and take foreign breaks more than once a year, but he said, that is what the relevant law requires.

He said the cure "for any such unfairness" lay in the gift of the legislature.

Under the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956, those wishing to ‘naturalise’ as Irish citizens have to be legally resident in the State for at least five years out of the last nine (or three out of the last five if married to an Irish citizen).

This includes one year of “continuous residence” in the 12 months up to the date of application.

The judge said the word "continuous" bore its ordinary meaning and was defined as "unbroken, uninterrupted, connected throughout in space or time".

Justice Max Barrett has conceded that his judgement ‘may seem unfair’.

Justice Max Barrett has conceded that his judgement ‘may seem unfair’.

The judge said the law did not allow the Minister any discretion in relation to this requirement. 

He said the minister had manifested "very real humanity" in trying to nuance the very clear wording of the legislation by applying a discretionary absence period to allow for the realities of modern life, but he had gone beyond what was legally permissible.

The judge said there was no evidence before him as to why the Oireachtas had imposed this condition in the 1956 Act.

He said it may have been to ensure potential citizens enjoyed a concrete connection with the State or were attuned to the way of life in Ireland or some other reason. 

The cure for any resulting unfairness was not to be found in the courts he said, but lay in the gift of the legislature.

Over 8,000 people were granted Irish citizenship in 2017 alone, according to European Union data.

According to The Journal.ie, Ireland’s Department of Justice said they were examining the ruling and “will take any necessary action in consultation with the Attorney General”.

The plantiff Roderick Jones has been contacted for comment.

CurrencyFair offers €30,000 prize for returning emigrant

Thinking of moving home to Ireland?

Money transfer platform CurrencyFair is offering one lucky emigrant a relocation package valued at €30,000.

The prize includes a year of rental accommodation, flights and car insurance.

To enter, Irish emigrants are invited to visitwww.currencyfair.com/comehome to tell CurrencyFair what home means to them and why the time is right to return to Ireland by sharing stories, photos and videos.

Entries for the contest close on August 31, 2019, and one deserving winner will be chosen by a panel of three independent judges.

“There are about three-and-a-half million Irish citizens currently living outside of Ireland. When you think about why they might like to come back, it boils down to a single common reason: Ireland is home,” said Jarlath Regan, creator and host of An Irishman Abroad podcast and CurrencyFair brand ambassador.

CurrencyFair’s Come Home prize will allow one returning emigrant to make a fresh start in Ireland.

CurrencyFair’s Come Home prize will allow one returning emigrant to make a fresh start in Ireland.

“The chance to win a contest like this could be life changing for someone simply wanting to come back to Ireland.”

“We know that moving to a new country — including returning to your home country — can be complicated, which is why we work so hard to ensure that moving money with us is simple, fast and safe,” said CurrencyFair CEO, Paul Byrne.

“Ireland is thriving again and it’s an exciting place to live right now, but it’s not without its challenges for returning emigrants. Our contest will help someone hit the ground running and make a fresh start at home.”

CurrencyFair has always prioritized making money transfers simple and fair, by combining the latest foreign exchange technology with 5-star, ‘excellent’ Trustpilot-rated customer service and processes that are easy to understand and use.

For each contest entry, CurrencyFair will make a €10 donation to Focus Ireland, the country’s leading not-for-profit working to prevent people becoming, remaining or returning to homelessness.

Over the past decade, CurrencyFair has helped Irish nationals move abroad by providing low-cost money transfers without compromise through its money transfer platform.

The company is focused on providing the best available exchange rates and experience for customers who need to send money and make payments overseas.

CurrencyFair’s 150,000-strong user-community have traded more than €8 billion and saved more than $366 million using the service.

Its unique peer-to-peer model and secure, state-of-the-art technology, raises the industry standard in foreign currency services for web, IOS and Android use.

The company has offices in Ireland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, and announced plans to expand further across Asia in 2019.

First king of Irish comedy Brendan Grace, dead at 68

The president of Ireland and the Taoiseach have paid tribute to Father Ted star Brendan Grace, who has died at the age of 68 after a short illness.

The veteran entertainer, who was also a stand-up comedian, played Father Fintan Stack in the popular comedy series about three priests.

He died on Thursday, surrounded by his family, after being diagnosed with lung cancer 10 days ago, his manager confirmed.

He is survived by his wife, Eileen, and their four children, Bradley, Melanie, Brendan and Amanda.

Brendan Grace in character as Bottler, one of his most famous characters.

Brendan Grace in character as Bottler, one of his most famous characters.

The actor, who also starred in 2013 TV film Brendan Grace's Bottler, had lived in the US for many years, but returned to his native Dublin in early June, where he was first diagnosed with pneumonia, before his terminal cancer diagnosis.

Irish President Michael D Higgins said he learned of Grace's death with great sadness.

"As a comedian, Brendan's spontaneous wit and his sense of timing, his obvious delighting in interaction with his audiences, meant that Brendan's sense of humour was drawing from, and itself a profound contribution to, the deep wellspring of Irish wit," he said.

"It was a privilege to know him, and a pleasure to meet Brendan as recently as the 5th of June last, when he accompanied The Forget-Me-Nots choir to a garden party at Áras an Uachtaráin.

"As President of Ireland, I express my deepest condolences to his wife and children, and to his wider family and his friends, and all who valued his acuity and sharp sense of humour."

Tom Kelly, Grace's manager for 27 years, speaking on Virgin Media One's Ireland:AM programme on Thursday morning, said the entertainer's death is a great loss to Ireland.

"Although he was aware of the outcome himself in the last few days when the cancer was diagnosed, it's a great shock to everybody," he said.

"He was very weak, he didn't wish to have chemo or anything like that, and the inevitable happened.

"He was one of the greats in modern entertaining, it's a huge loss."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paid tribute on Twitter, writing: "RIP Brendan Grace, an Irish comedy legend. You made us laugh so many times, from Bottler to Father Ted and so many others. One of the greats. Our thoughts are with Brendan's friends and family."

Grace was a regular visitor to Australia, most recently in 2015.

In an interview with the Irish Echo ahead of that tour, he was asked to explain the secret of his success.

“Hard neck,” he said. “The reason things went well was I always kept my humour simple, and I sang a few songs as well. My attitude was ‘give the people what they want’. And I always managed to keep the act clean, so older people and younger people were still able to come along without being offended.”

And comedian Brendan O'Carroll, writer and star of Mrs Brown's Boys, said: "So sad at the passing of a great comedy legend, husband and father Brendan Grace.

"He opened doors for so many of us and leaves a legacy of love and laughter that will echo through this land and we will all mourn his passing. Rest peacefully Bottler, you've earned it."

Brendan Grace with another Irish comedy legend Hal Roach, in 2002.

Brendan Grace with another Irish comedy legend Hal Roach, in 2002.

Thousands of messages have been posted by fans across social media recalling fond memories of watching Grace with their families, calling him a "legend of Irish comedy".

Dee Forbes, director-general of Ireland's state broadcaster RTE, said: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Brendan Grace. Brendan was one of Ireland's original funnymen, and one of Irish comedy's true pioneers.

"While there are now many Irish comedians who are household names, Brendan emerged as a talent during an era when there were very few established Irish comedians.

"Through his live shows, his live recordings, The Brendan Grace Show and many memorable guest appearances on RTE's The Late Late Show, Brendan established himself in the hearts of generations of fans, not just in Ireland but all over the world.

"Importantly, he also paved the way for many of the wonderful comedians this country has produced over the last 20 years or so and leaves behind a legacy he and his family can be proud of.

"He will be deeply missed. My thoughts and those of his many friends and fans across RTE are with his family and friends at this sad time."

Funny Man, a documentary directed by Brian Reddin which looked back over the career of Grace, will be repeated at 10.15pm on Friday on RTE One.

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Paul McAuliffe, opened a Book of Condolence for the people of the city to pay their respects.

Former Australian envoy's dig at Ireland over US visas

Former Australian Ambassador to the United States Michael Thawley. Picture: ANU

Former Australian Ambassador to the United States Michael Thawley. Picture: ANU

A former Australian ambassador to the US Michael Thawley has had a non-too-subtle dig at Ireland as the battle for coveted US E3 visas rumbles on.

Currently, Australians have exclusive access to 10,500 of the two-year, renewable work visas each year. But under a bill before congress, which has the support of both President Trump and Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi, Irish citizens will get access to those visas not used by Australians.

Australia’s outgoing Ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey lobbied for the scheme to remain exclusive to this country’s citizens.

Mr Thawley told The Australian that he also believed Australia had a better claim to the visas than any other country. But he also appeared to reference Ireland’s neutrality and problem of undocumented immigrants in justifying his position.

“Australia is a close ally of the US, having fought with it in every major war — not stood on the sidelines,” he was quoted as saying.

“We are a very large investor and employer in the US. And we are a strong and trusted economic partner on financial, tax and other regulatory issues. We don’t pose over-stayer or illegal immigrant issues.”

From 2000 to 2005 the English-born Michael Thawley served as Australia's Ambassador to the United States. Before that, he was international adviser to the former Prime Minister, John Howard, and served in a variety of positions in the Australian Government in Canberra and overseas.

He played a key role, along with Prime Minister Howard, in securing the E3 visa deal for Australia as part of a US-Australia trade agreement.

His comments have not won universal support amoing his former colleagues with one unnamed senior government source telling The Australian: “Immigration policy is the right of the congress of the US. We can’t get too hubristic, otherwise we will guarantee it goes through.”

During his recent visit to Ireland, President Trump was asked about the E3 visa bill.

“I think we’re going to be in good shape [on the bill]”, he said.

“I want to do that for the people of Ireland, but I want to do it for the people that are in the United States that want this vote to happen, that happen to be of Irish descent,” he added.

The Irish government has been approached for comment on Mr Thawley’s remarks.

Voting rights for Irish abroad referendum to go ahead

The same-sex marriage referendum in 2015 brought many Irish citizens abroad ‘home to vote’.

The same-sex marriage referendum in 2015 brought many Irish citizens abroad ‘home to vote’.

The Irish government has approved a plan to hold a referendum which, if passed, will allow Irish citizens living abroad to vote in presidential elections.

The poll is expected to take place in late October and the Varadkar government will be campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote.

Under the proposed change, all Irish passport holders of voting age would be eligible to vote for the President. The next presidential election is due in 2025.

The government estimates that there are 3.6 million Irish citizens outside of the Republic. This figure includes the total population of Northern Ireland (approximately 1.8 million) as well as those who have not reached voting age.

Online registration and postal voting would be used to extend the franchise, according to reports in Ireland. The campaign period would also be extended to accommodate a global electorate.

ALSO READ: Two 14-year-old boys found guilty of Dublin schoolgirl’s murder

If the proposed referendum passes, the 2025 presidential election would be the first in which Irish citizens not resident in Ireland could vote.

The referendum had been due to take place in May, alongside the divorce referendum and the local and European elections.

However, the Cabinet in February opted to delay the presidential vote.

The Taoiseach said the possibility of the vote being contentious and the uncertainty of Brexit were factors in the decision.

Speaking at the time, Leo Varadkar told the Dáil: "It will involve a good deal of planning, it needs a good campaign and we want to win it."

Ireland is almost unique among western democracies in denying its citizens abroad a vote.

Turnout in the 2018 Irish Presidential Election was as low as 30 per cent in come constituencies.

Turnout in the 2018 Irish Presidential Election was as low as 30 per cent in come constituencies.

Countries like France have global constituencies for its citizens abroad and elected representatives sit in the French parliament. Australia allows its citizens abroad to vote for up to six years after leaving the country. However, you must be first registered to vote while resident in Australia.

In 2016, a Convention on the Constitution voted in favour of extending the vote in presidential elections to Irish citizens living abroad. The possibility of citizens abroad being allowed to vote in Dáil and Seanad elections or referenda was not considered by the convention.

The wording of the referendum and the surrounding legislation is expected to be available by the end of July.

In a statement, the Irish Government said: “The presidency serves a very different function to the Dáil and Seanad. This referendum will be about reimagining a presidency for the 21st century, a presidency that represents the Irish nation not just the State, and that is elected by all citizens.”

The referendum has been welcomed by the Votes For Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA) group.

“Wonderful news that this referendum has been confirmed,” the group tweeted. “Extending the Presidential vote to Irish citizens abroad acknowledges their Irishness and puts us in line with over 30 other European countries on voting rights.”

But there has been an almost immediate backlash against the extension of voting rights with radio presenter and journalist Ciara Kelly who wrote: “It's my view that many of the diaspora look back at the old sod with green tinted glasses and see us largely stowed in moth balls at the point at which they or their parents or grandparents left. But that is not who we are. We are a young, vibrant, outward looking, progressive, liberal country. I'm not sure that is truly recognised by our ex-pats.“

She went on: “I would stick to the old rule - no representation without taxation. No vote unless you have to live with the consequences of that vote.”

Boys, 14, found guilty of Dublin schoolgirl's murder

Ana Kriegel was just 14 when she was murdered by two boys her own age in Lucan, Co Dublin last year, a Dublin court has found.

Ana Kriegel was just 14 when she was murdered by two boys her own age in Lucan, Co Dublin last year, a Dublin court has found.

Two 14-year-old boys have been found guilty of the murder of 14-year-old Ana Kriegel in Co Dublin last year.

Both boys have been granted anonymity due to their age, and were referred to as Boy A and Boy B throughout the trial.

Boy A has also been found guilty of aggravated sexual assault. The boys are the youngest people in the history of the state to ever be convicted of murder.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for 14 hours and 25 minutes, after a six-week trial in Dublin's Central Criminal Court.

Ana Kriegel's naked body was found with a ligature around the neck in a derelict house in Lucan, Co Dublin, days after the 14 year-old went missing on May 14, 2018.

Former state pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy identified around 50 areas of injury on the schoolgirl's head and body, and concluded the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and neck.

Ms Cassidy also said that there was evidence of penetration or attempted penetration of the vagina.

Geraldine Kriegel described her daughter Ana (above) as “a dream come true for us”.

Geraldine Kriegel described her daughter Ana (above) as “a dream come true for us”.

The jury foreman's hand shook as she handed over papers to the court clerk, before stating they had found both boys guilty on all the charges facing them respectively.

Justice Paul McDermott thanked the jury who he said "were brought off the street to consider these matters, which is all the more reason to express deep appreciation to you, I can't offer you anything but most the most sincere gratitude and excuse you all".

After the verdict, Ana's parents, Patric and Geraldine Kriegel hugged each other and their friends and wept in the court room.

Outside court, Mr Kriegel told media that their daughter Ana was "our strength".

Her mother said: "Ana was a dream come true for us, and she always will be. She'll stay in our hearts forever loved and forever cherished. We love you, Ana."

Boy B's father left the room immediately after the verdict, slamming the door, before returning shortly after, clapping and loudly stating: "An innocent child is going to prison."

Both Boy A and B's mothers wept and held their sons before they were taken by Gardai to detention.

Both boys have been remanded in detention until July 15.

Dublin emigration museum wins European tourism award

EPIC, a Dublin museum dedicated to the Irish diaspora, has won a major tourism award.

EPIC, a Dublin museum dedicated to the Irish diaspora, has won a major tourism award.

The Irish emigration museum has been voted Europe's leading tourist attraction, beating locations like Greece's Acropolis and Barcelona's Sagrada Familia.

The Dublin museum was given the prestigious award at the 26th annual World Travel Awards in Portugal.

The museum was given the distinguished award just three years after opening its doors to the public at The CHQ Building in Dublin's docklands.

Some of the competition included the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Rome's Colosseum.

Founder of Epic Neville Isdell said: "It is truly an honour to receive an award of this magnitude.

"We have thoroughly enjoyed welcoming the tens of thousands of people who have visited us both from Ireland and overseas each year and look forward to welcoming many more.

"I have always believed that the story of Irish people around the world was worth telling, and so, I founded Epic.

"When we opened in 2016, we had a vision to create a local museum that could connect globally.

"It's very important that we honour the Irish diaspora abroad and recognise the vital contributions and monumental impact Irish people have made worldwide.

"It's wonderful to be recognised for this award, thank you to those that made this possible through hard work and dedication, and to those who voted for us."

The museum, which will welcome more than 300,000 visitors this year, shows the far-reaching influence of Irish people and covers 1,500 years of Irish history.

It tells the powerful story of 10 million Irish people who travelled abroad to start a new life, including the contributions they have made, and the enormous influence they had and continue to have on the world.

The museum takes visitors on a journey of emigration from Ireland, to the far corners of the globe including America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Galleries in the interactive museum illustrate the global impact Irish emigrants have had on areas such as sport, music, dance, creativity, charity, politics, science and technology.

Visitors get hands-on with Irish culture and its past - swiping through video galleries, dancing through motion sensor quizzes, listening to remastered audio from 100 years ago and watching videos that bring Irish history to life.

Other highlights include a gallery of infamous Irish rogues, a whispering library featuring some of Ireland's most prominent Irish writers, a celebration of Irish music and dance, which includes Riverdance, and an Irish family history centre where visitors can consult with a genealogy expert to learn more about their own family history.

Theresa May set to step aside as British PM

Theresa May is expected to resign as Conservative Party leader on June 10.

Theresa May is expected to resign as Conservative Party leader on June 10.

Theresa May is under pressure to set out when she will quit Number 10 after a Cabinet revolt over her Brexit plan.

The Prime Minister will meet the leader of backbench Conservatives, Graham Brady, today (Friday) to discuss her future after her authority was left in tatters following the backlash against her "new Brexit deal".

Senior ministers set out their concerns in "frank" talks with the beleaguered premier as Downing Street delayed publication of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) which sets out her Brexit plan in law.

The Prime Minister's private meeting with Mr Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, could be the moment that Mrs May sets the date for her exit from Downing Street.

A 1922 Committee source told Press Association they expected June 10 to be the day Mrs May chooses.

"Hopefully what will happen is she will stand down as Tory leader I think on or before June 10, and she will hopefully remain as caretaker Prime Minister until such time as a new Tory leader is elected," they said.

"My feeling is that she will stay until June 10."

The source said a new leader would ideally be in place by the end of the European summer to get a Brexit deal through parliament before October 31, the date currently set for the UK's exit from the EU.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney pictured with Boris Johnson in 2017. Mr Johnson, a committed Brexiteer, is among the favourites to succeed Theresa May as British PM.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney pictured with Boris Johnson in 2017. Mr Johnson, a committed Brexiteer, is among the favourites to succeed Theresa May as British PM.

In Ireland, there are increasing fears that Mrs May’s departure will increase the chances of a hard Brexit, especially if she is replaced by a committed Brexiteer like Boris Johnson.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has ruled-out any renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement, which maps-out Britain's exit from the European Union, if Theresa May is replaced as British Prime Minister.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Mr Coveney said: "It's not up for renegotiation, even if there is a new British prime minister...the personality might change here, but the facts don't."

He described Mrs May as "a decent person" but strongly criticised Conservative MPs at Westminster - branding them as "impossible" on the issue of Brexit.