Irish Abroad

Votes for Irish abroad referendum to be delayed again

The referendum to decide whether Irish citizens living abroad will be allowed to vote in presidential elections looks certain to be pushed back to next year.

It is the second time the referendum has been delayed. The vote was originally expected to take place in May alongside the local and European elections. It was then expected to take place later this month or in November but the Irish government has yet to name the date despite publishing the Bill last week.

While the Irish government has refused to offer an official comment, it is understood that the uncertainties of Brexit have scuppered plans to have the vote this year.

The Irish Times has reported that government sources had said that more work needed to be done to prepare for the referendum, and sources expected it would not be completed in time for a November poll.

Ireland’s Minister for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon, during his visit to Australia in May, revealed that the government was worried about a ‘no’ vote.

If successful, the referendum will pave the way for Irish citizens living abroad to vote in presidential elections. The 2025 presidential election would be the first in which Irish citizens not resident in Ireland could vote.

Many expats travelled to Ireland to have their say in the same-sex marriage and abortion referenda even though, as non-residents, they are officially denied a vote.

Many expats travelled to Ireland to have their say in the same-sex marriage and abortion referenda even though, as non-residents, they are officially denied a vote.

Under the proposed change, all Irish citizens of voting age would be eligible to vote but only in presidential elections.

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: Emigrants should be the focus of new diaspora policy

Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad (VICA), the primary lobby group to extend the franchise to non-resident Irish nationals, welcomed the publication of the Bill which proposes to amend Article 12 of the constitution.

“Great news that the Irish government has tonight published the bill on extending presidential voting rights, ahead of a referendum on the issue,” VICA said in a tweet.

The referendum had been originally 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 even considered by the convention.

When the government originally announced plans for the referendum earlier this year, there was an almost immediate backlash against the extension of voting rights.

Radio presenter and journalist Ciara Kelly 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.”

New support network for expat Irish women

Irish women in Australia have found a new network of support through the work of one Dublin-born mother.

After a decade living in Australia, having made the move at 24, Sarah Whelan returned to Ireland for less than two years before deciding to journey back to Sydney, which she realised had become her home.

When the certified transitional life coach touched down she began to share her experiences of leaving and returning online, and expat Irish women flocked to her blog.

“People were really identifying with the things I was feeling,” Ms Whelan said.

“Women identified with the emotional impact…the guilt in leaving family behind.”

Irish Women Abroad founder Sarah Whelan aims to coach women through difficult transitions in their lives.

Irish Women Abroad founder Sarah Whelan aims to coach women through difficult transitions in their lives.

Ms Whelan was inspired to create Irish Women Abroad, an online support network to meet growing demand for answers and advice.

More than 3,000 network members, the majority of whom are Irish-Australian, provide everything from a shoulder to lean on to suggestions regarding every challenging aspect of emigration, from leaving relatives to transporting pets.

It was not long before the community moved off the internet and into the real world.

A recent Sydney meet-up was opened by the Irish Consulate in Sydney’s Vice Consul Rory Conaty, with the Consulate’s funding helping Ms Whelan - whose work with the network is voluntary - to organise events.

The Sydney Irish mission has provided support to Irish Women Abroad since its team members discovered Ms Whelan’s blog.

Sydney meet-up attendees enjoyed a reading from award-winning Irish poet Anne Casey.

Sydney meet-up attendees enjoyed a reading from award-winning Irish poet Anne Casey.

Award-winning Irish poet Anne Casey has recently joined the network after 25 years in Australia, saying she immediately saw the potential for members to bond over shared emigration experiences.

“It’s the empty chairs at birthday parties…it’s the call in the middle of the night when a family member has died.

“You don’t have to explain anything.”

The next meet-up will be held in Melbourne in November, and with an event already planned for returning expats in Ireland, there could be opportunities for further international expansion.

Ms Whelan hopes the “safe spaces” she has created continue to help women find their feet wherever they decide to resettle.

“My vision is for people to feel connected in their experiences…there’s no right or wrong way to feel.”

Returning emigrants now counted as 'immigrants'

Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) now officially counts Irish citizens returning to live in the country as ‘immigrants’.

The CSO, the official statistician for the Irish government, used the term in its latest report on Population and Migration.

In a statement accompanying the report, statistician James Hegarty wrote: “In the year to April 2019, Irish nationals accounted for 26,900 (30.4 per cent) of the 88,600 immigrants to Ireland and 29,000 (52.8 per cent) of the 54,900 emigrants from Ireland.”

Asked to explain why Irish citizens were being called ‘immigrants’, Mr Hegarty said the CSO was using the “Eurostat definition for both immigration and emigration”. He said that for the purposes of reporting migration patterns, nationality was not taken into account.

Nationality is not taken into account when counting immigrant numbers into Ireland.

Nationality is not taken into account when counting immigrant numbers into Ireland.

“The act of immigration/emigration describes the action that a person undertakes and is not specific to any particular nationality,” Mr Hegarty said in a statement.

“While the majority of Irish nationals moving to Ireland will be returning former residents, there may also be a cohort of Irish nationals/citizens moving to Ireland for the first time. The Eurostat definition accommodates both of these situations.”

The government was asked for comment on the terminology but no response was received by deadline.

Emigrants returning to live in Ireland have complained about being treated “like immigrants”, especially when trying to resume access to social or government services, or while going through the process of satisfying the Habitual Residency Provision.

Also read: Irish changes rules for de facto partners

These concerns, and other specific problems associated with the decision to return to live in

Ireland, prompted the Government to commission a report, which was completed in February 2018.

The subsequent report, produced by Indecon, identified many real challenges encountered by returning emigrants and made 30 recommendations, only a handful of which have been adopted by the government.

The CSO report found that an estimated 29,000 Irish nationals emigrated in the year to April 2019 compared with 26,900 who returned to the country.

There was a surge in emigration to Australia, as the numbers leaving Ireland for the country increased by 2,000 to 6,500 in the year to April 2019 – a figure last recorded in 2015.

The numbers heading to Australia had been declining or remained flat in the intervening period. The number of people returning to Ireland or emigrating from Australia declined from 7,200 to 5,800.

President challenged in Celtic Club election

The candidate challenging incumbent Celtic Club president Brian Shanahan in the forthcoming election has told The Irish Echo that he does not want to smear his opponent.

But Peter Donnellan, who heads up a group of concerned members dubbed ‘Dire Straits’, does believe the club is being mismanaged.

“None of our pieces of work say anything about particular individuals. None of the things that we put out say bad things about people,” he said.

Current Celtic Club President Brian Shanahan.

Current Celtic Club President Brian Shanahan.

“I think if people felt like they were included, there wouldn’t be the level of antagonism and name calling and this sort of stuff that has been going on in the place for a long time.

“If the sale [of the club’s premises] had gone according to the way sales should proceed instead of trying to bluster and force their way through it like some sort of rugby pack, you would say, ‘right, we’ll probably give it a go’.

“I think a lot of the dissension is caused by the methodology and the abuse and so forth that happens simply if you disagree. You’re perceived as an enemy by nature if you disagree. Because our team don’t agree and they put their heads above the barricades, they’re there to be knocked off. I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it’s productive for the club in the long term or in the short term.”

Mr Donnellan also says his team is just looking for greater transparency within the club. Mr Donnellan says his ‘Dire Straits’ team want to open up club meetings to all members and provide information of these meetings to members who are not present. They also promise to provide regular financial statements and protect members’ rights.

“We’re pretty sure that Brian probably has the numbers and good luck to him but we have a responsibility to say, ‘this stuff can’t keep going on’.

“At the moment we can’t get a list of club members to send stuff to. That’s against the spirit of the act and it’s not within the spirit of the club rules so it’s very hard to get anything directly to members.”

In response to Mr Donnellan’s comments, Mr Shanahan insisted that material put out by the ‘Dire Straits’ team had mentioned people by name.

On the topic of getting electoral

information to members, Mr Shanahan said all candidates had the same opportunity to connect with members. “All members standing for committee are invited to provide a statement of up to 200 words and a photograph to the returning officer and it will be sent to all club members at the club’s expense,” he said.

“This is a long standing practice at the Club, and all candidates should have received this information.

“The mail out of this information would be expected to commence some days after the draw for ballot positions is undertaken by the returning officer or his representative. The ballot draw has not yet happened. The assistant returning officer. has advised that all candidates will have their 200 word statements and photographs (once provided) sent to all members in the next two weeks, as is the usual practice.”

On the suggestion there was no business plan and that members are given no indication of how the club is doing and its plans, Mr Shanahan said: “The Club has a budget for 2019/20, which is break even, or a small profit. On top of this, we have assets in excess of $18 million and no debts. After considerable efforts, we were successful in reducing our operation losses, and we are confident of a small profit in 2019/20.

“Furthermore, at the recent confidential members only meeting, attended by ‘Dire Straits’, the Celtic Club’s future strategy and business plans were discussed in detail by me and other committee of management (COM) members. Club members can be allowed to attend COM meetings if they request to do so, there is no blanket ban. Obviously there is a need for discretion as some matters are sensitive and confidential.”

Peter Donnellan is challenging for the Celtic Club presidency.

Peter Donnellan is challenging for the Celtic Club presidency.

The club’s headquarters at Queen Street were sold to Malaysian developer Beulah for $25.6 million in 2016 but the club held onto the option to return to Queen Street when it is

refurbished in two to three years’ time. In the meantime, the Celtic Club’s temporary home for functions and entertainment is at the Metropolitan Hotel, Courtney St, North Melbourne with an administration centre on William St, West Melbourne.

Mr Donnellan insisted that the members were concerned about the lease arrangement.

“We’re told the Metropolitan lease is now on a month-to-month basis whereas we thought the club had a five-year by five- year lease,” he said.

“However, if we’re on a month-to-month lease, the club has lost money on the Metropolitan. It’s not regularly open [so] why don’t we get rid of the Metropolitan and find ourselves a better venue?

“There hasn’t been a business plan, not to my knowledge. There’s been nothing that says: ‘This is what we plan to do, this is what we’ve got, this is how we plan to make some money and move forward.’ The club’s capital is just disappearing. There is no allegation other than mismanagement that we’re making but we have no knowledge at all how things are going and why we’re losing money.

“The sale of the club caused a lot of anxiety within the club and a lot of fighting that probably could have been handled better by every side,” said Mr Donnellan, who served on the committee as secretary.

“I resigned over the non-implementation of governance and accountablity and financial reforms. People wanted to carry on and get things back to some sort of new normal but it didn’t work so I left. There’s a degree of disarray at the club.”

Committee elections are coming up on September 20. The new committee will then take over after the AGM, which is usually in October.

“I expect our votes to go up and from Brian’s team’s reaction, I would expect that they do feel challenged, Mr Donnellan said. “I think they’re concerned that what we’re saying is biting into their base.”

The Irish Echo reported last month that grievances against the Melbourne Celtic Club were coming from a website called The Continuity Celtic Club and that this and the ‘Dire Straits’ team were one and the same. This was incorrect. The website had just posted the ‘Dire Straits’ team’s newsletters and the ‘Dire Straits’ team has nothing to do with the website.

Sinéad Flanagan wins Rose crown for Limerick

Sinéad Flanagan from Limerick is the 2019 International Rose Of Tralee. Picture: Dominick Walsh

Sinéad Flanagan from Limerick is the 2019 International Rose Of Tralee. Picture: Dominick Walsh

Limerick doctor Sinéad Flanagan has been crowned the 2019 International Rose of Tralee.

The 27-year-old was chosen from 32 young women who travelled from all over the world to the Kerry town for the annual festival.

She told host Dáithí Ó Sé: "I think you can tell by me I'm a bit shocked alright!" 

Flanagan described the experience as "amazing".

"It's Limerick's year," she said backstage. "We've had the All-Ireland, the league, the Munster final and now the Rose of Tralee.”

Sydney Rose Rebecca Mazza on stage in Tralee with host Daithi Ó Sé. Picture: Dominick Walsh

Sydney Rose Rebecca Mazza on stage in Tralee with host Daithi Ó Sé. Picture: Dominick Walsh

The new Rose grew up in Mungret and now lives in Adare, Co Limerick. After qualifying as a physiotherapist at University of Limerick, she studied Medicine in University College Cork and graduated in 2018.

Melbourne Rose Jordan Balfry on stage at the Tralee ‘Dome’. Picture: Dominick Walsh

Melbourne Rose Jordan Balfry on stage at the Tralee ‘Dome’. Picture: Dominick Walsh

South Australian Rose Simone Hendricks Buchanan on stage in Tralee.

South Australian Rose Simone Hendricks Buchanan on stage in Tralee.

Australia sent three representatives this year. Perth, Queensland and Darwin were not represented in 2019 after organisers limited numbers by introducing a rotation system for the first time.

Sydney’s representative was 24-year-old speech pathologist Rebecca Mazza. Born and raised in Perth, she moved to Sydney to pursue her career after completing her masters.

Limerick-born Jordan Balfry represented Melbourne. The 28-year-old occupational therapist is a recent arrival in Australia having moved to the Victorian capital two years ago.

South Australian Rose Simone Hendrick Buchanan was also born in Ireland but moved to Adelaide aged 11. Cork-born and raised in Dingle, Hendrick Buchahan is studying to be a primary schoolteacher.

Arizona Rose Kayla Gray made history during the pageant after becoming the first Rose of Tralee contestant to get a tattoo backstage during the televised finals.

There was controversy ahead of the televised event after Newstalk radio presenter Susan Keogh criticised the show’s host Daithi Ó Sé who claimed the Rose concept ‘empowered women’.

Ms Keogh said she had “never heard such bulls**t” and that the idea it empowered women was a “complete oversell”.

She asked: “Where is the body diversity. Will you see any fat roses?”.

Keogh also questioned where were the Roses from the Travelling community, the homeless and from direct provision. “It does not represent modern Ireland, “ she said.

She also asked why the women who do not have degrees are not represented in the live final.

But 2018 winner Kirsten Mate Maher fiercely defended the festival, saying: “I don’t have a degree, I haven’t set foot in college yet”.

The Waterford Rose is from a diverse family background. Her father is a former Zambian army officer; her mother is from Waterford.

“She (Ms Keogh) is attention-seeking ... I think it is really nasty and her views are wrong,” she said.

Irish tech firm lists on Australian Stock Exchange

An Irish software company has taken out the title of Australia’s largest foreign stock market listing of the year.

FINEOS has raised $211 million in initial public offering, and was celebrated with Irish performers and the ringing of the opening bell at the Australian Securities Exchange.

The leading tech company provides software systems to the life, accident and health insurance industry for core process administration, digital engagement capabilities, and data analytics.

Speaking at the listing ceremony, FINEOS founder and CEO Michael Kelly said, “Being Irish in Australia is always a great thing…but you guys have made this very special.”

“We’ve bought our leadership team from Ireland down…this is really the start of the next chapter of our journey.”

FINEOS founder Michael Kelly rang the opening bell at the ASX.

FINEOS founder Michael Kelly rang the opening bell at the ASX.

The ASX approached FINEOS two years ago to propose the listing.

Six of Australia’s top life, accident and health insurance companies use FINEOS software, helping company executives make their decision.

“We thought, ‘we have a great team in Australia, maybe it’s not a bad idea that we investigate this’,” Mr Kelly said.

ASX Executive General Manager of Listings Max Cunningham said the fintech was an attractive global offering with a workforce across eight countries.

“FINEOS will make the largest ever foreign tech listing that we’ve received and compliment our technology sector,” he said.

Irish Consul General Owen Feeney, FINEOS chairperson Anne Driscoll, the ASX’s executive general manager of listings Max Cunningham, and CEO Michael Kelly celebrated the Irish company’s connection with Australia.

Irish Consul General Owen Feeney, FINEOS chairperson Anne Driscoll, the ASX’s executive general manager of listings Max Cunningham, and CEO Michael Kelly celebrated the Irish company’s connection with Australia.

FINEOS currently has a market capitalisation of over $500 million, 26 years after it was founded in 1993.

Sydney Irish Consul General Owen Feeney said Irish businesses were flourishing in Australia, and that he hoped Australian companies would follow suit in exploring Ireland for market opportunities and a ‘staging post’ into Europe.

“Irish companies…look abroad, it’s in their blood. There’s no better example than FINEOS.”

Expat women on top of the GAA world

Australasia's Irish-born women emerged triumphant in both the ladies football and camogie contests at the recent GAA World Games.

Former Kerry All-Star Caroline Kelly, who captained the women’s football team, and camogie leader Sam McKillen of Antrim got to lift the tophies in Croke Park after their teams steamed through their tournaments proving too good for all their competitors.

Caroline Kelly, who plays with Brisbane Souths, told The Irish Echo: "It was really special. It's only starting to sink in now because the week was so quick that it was only afterwards we realised, 'that was a really special occasion and really special week to be part of'.

“Ourselves and Parnells had a really really tough battle in the final and we were so lucky just to come out on the right side of it in the end."

Kelly’s team clinched victory in the most dramatic fashion.

Australasia’s Irish-born women’s captain Caroline Kelly lifts the trophy after her team won the GAA World Games title at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Australasia’s Irish-born women’s captain Caroline Kelly lifts the trophy after her team won the GAA World Games title at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Having trailed for the entire match to Parnell's of London, Kelly stormed through to pass to Tricia Melanaphy for the final score which clinched victory: 2-7 to 1-9.

"I didn't quite realise how little time was left. I knew time was ticking and we had to attack but I don't think I realised that was going to be the last kick of the game, that was our last chance.

"It was pure joy (at the final whistle),” Kelly said.

“Those games are always the better ones to win, those dramatic matches where you just scrape it at the end, just the feeling after it is like nothing else.

"When I left and went to Australia, I thought the big games were behind me. I certainly never thought I would be in Croke Park again never mind climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand.

"What I found lovely about the whole competition was all our families were there to see us. When we're used to playing in Australia, we don't always have that and I think most of the players, after we celebrated with each other, we all went to our families and just to have them share in our joy was really special."

The camogie final was special for the McKillen family. Thirty years on from when Paul McKillen played in an All-Ireland hurling final for Antrim, he watched his daughter Sam become a champion in Croke Park.

Sam McKillen lifts the trophy after leading the Australasian Irish-born women to victory at the GAA’s World Games competition at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sam McKillen lifts the trophy after leading the Australasian Irish-born women to victory at the GAA’s World Games competition at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sam, of Cormac McAnallens club in Sydney, told The Irish Echo: "Of course he was proud. He's still proud, he's going round the town telling everyone, 'this girls's a world champion'.

"It was nice bringing back that memory and him seeing me win, he's ecstatic. He can't stop talking about it. The biggest thing about it all for me was I played in Croke Park, we won and I had my family there watching me. What else would you want?

"It was great to bring the cup back to Sydney. I don't think I'll ever get to climb the steps of Croke Park again but it was class. Going to Croke Park, playing in front of your family and friends, playing with those girls especially, the talent is unreal. The girls I'm playing with out there are outstanding players. The feeling is unexplainable."

McKillen and her team steamed through the competition winning many of their matches by big scores, beating Middle East by 1-10 to 1-4 in the final.

"Middle East were a great team,” McKillen said.

“The score didn't tell the full story of that game, they put it up to us. I was still fighting for every last ball like it meant everything. Even if we were ahead by a couple of points, it felt like we were behind. We did win it comfortably but credit to them as well."

Australasia also took the best and fairest in two codes, Karen Jones took the Irish-born camogie honour while Lauren Saunders was honoured in ‘native-born’ women’s football.

Australasia were also runners-up in three more codes.

The ‘native-born’ women lost out 0-6 to 1-7 to New York's Liberty Ladies. The Irish-born footballers went down 1-9 to 3-9 to Middle East. The Irish-born hurlers also lost to Middle East by 3-7 to 2-15. The ‘native-born’ footballers were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by New York Freedom.

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.

US visa appeal after Cork dad is detained

Relatives of an Irishman facing deportation from the US have launched an online appeal to fund a legal battle to secure his residency.

Keith Byrne, who has been married to a US citizen for 10 years, was detained last week as he made his way to work near his home on the outskirts of Philadelphia.

The incident comes amid President Donald Trump's latest crackdown on illegal immigrants in the US.

Mr Byrne, 37, from Fermoy in Co Cork, moved to the US in 2007. He married his wife Keren in 2009 and the couple have two children - Leona, 6, and Gabriel, 4. He is also stepfather to Mrs Byrne's 13-year-old son Ezra, his family said.

Keith Byrne with his wife Keren and children, Ezra, 13, Leona, 6 and Gabriel, 4.

Keith Byrne with his wife Keren and children, Ezra, 13, Leona, 6 and Gabriel, 4.

Mr Byrne originally travelled to the US on the Visa Waiver Programme but did not leave when his permitted time in the country expired. He has been attempting to secure citizenship for around 10 years.

It is understood those efforts have been complicated by two convictions related to cannabis possession when he was a younger man in Ireland, and he had been concerned about the prospect of deportation.

Mr Byrne, who has his own painting company, was on his way to work when he was arrested by officers from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Wednesday morning.

He is now facing deportation back to Ireland, potentially later this month.

A gofundme page set up by a cousin of the family, Jeff Snader, raised around US$19,000 of a US$50,000-target within 48 hours.

Mr Snader said: "In this great country we get a lot of things right. But there is nothing right with the deportation of Keith Byrne.

Keith Byrne is in custody awaiting deportation from the United States.

Keith Byrne is in custody awaiting deportation from the United States.

"He is a dedicated member of society, a tax paying entrepreneur, a loving father and stepfather of three children, a man of the household who cares deeply for his wife and a patriot of the United States of America."

A spokesman for the ICE said: "In 2007, Keith Byrne, 37, a citizen of Ireland, entered the United States as a non-immigrant under the Visa Waiver Programme and failed to depart the United States under the terms of his admission.

"ICE arrested him July 10 for immigration violations and issued him a visa waiver removal order. He is currently in ICE custody pending removal."

 

NZ visa changes to impact Irish passport holders

New Zealand is implementing new visa requirements from October 1, with Irish passport holders among those who will be impacted.

Visitors from Ireland must now request an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) before travelling to New Zealand, which tourists from visa-waiver countries previously did not need.

Irish citizens will need an ETA, which is similar to a visitor visa, to stay in New Zealand for up to three months, while Australian citizens will be exempt from both traditional visa and ETA requirements.

The authorisation does not permit visitors to work in the country.

Irish citizens travelling to New Zealand will need to apply for an ETA.

Irish citizens travelling to New Zealand will need to apply for an ETA.

To apply for an ETA, which is electronically linked to passengers’ passports and remains valid for two years, visitors must provide information such as criminal conviction history and travel intentions, and pay a NZ $12 fee.

Almost four million travellers visited the island country in 2018, which has experienced a surge in tourism in the last five years as people flock to its ski slopes and waterfront cities.

According to Immigration New Zealand, the changes are intended to enhance security, address immigration and smuggling risks, and improve the traveller experience.

Tourists may also need to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL), but Immigration New Zealand has yet to announce which travellers are required to make this payment.


Emigrants should be primary focus of new diaspora policy

The Irish government is working on a new policy for the diaspora as the country seeks to expand and improve its global footprint and influence by 2025.

The Varadkar government is looking for ideas from the global Irish family to inform this new policy.

However, as a recent visit to Australia by the relevant minister Ciaran Cannon revealed, the government has yet to settle on a definition for the Irish diaspora.

If you’re a fifth generation Aussie of Irish heritage, you have a very different existential relationship with Ireland than the 28-year-old nurse from Mayo who arrived into Sydney airport this morning.

For the purposes of this exercise, it is crucial that the nurse, lets call her Aoife, is foremost in our thoughts and informs what we can observe about the recent experience of emigrants.

Why? Firstly, because she is an Irish citizen living and working abroad, hopefully by choice. In her head and her heart she will always be Irish, no matter where she lives.

Irish emigrants have a very different relationship with Ireland than those of more distant Irish heritage.

Irish emigrants have a very different relationship with Ireland than those of more distant Irish heritage.

For the fifth generation Aussie, lets call him Kevin (Rudd?), Ireland holds an abstract place in his cultural memory. But it will never be home.

The good news for Aoife is that all the evidence points to the fact that she will do very well here.

She will get a job almost immediately. When she goes to work, she will meet others just like her. Irish nurses, many of whom, sadly, believe that Ireland does not sufficiently value their skills to pay them, or offer them the working conditions, that they deserve.

That issue aside, Aoife will most likely get sponsored and begin a pathway to permanent residency in Australia, still something that is highly desired among young Irish immigrants.

She may join one of the Gaelic football or camogie clubs or try her hand at Aussie Rules which seems to be such a great fit for young Irish women. Either way, there will be no major cultural or ethnic obstacle to her integration into Australian life.

Coming to Australia from Ireland is such a well-trodden path now that people like Aoife slip almost immediately into the mainstream.

Aoife will become part of a migrant community which, the census tells us, is one of the most successful in Australia.

When individual earnings are compared by place of birth, the Irish appear right at the top of the list. We earn more than any other European migrants.

So Aoife has nothing to worry about then? Well, not exactly.

Returning emigrants, particularly those returning from beyond the European Union, often recount negative experiences when trying to reintegrate into Irish life.

Returning emigrants, particularly those returning from beyond the European Union, often recount negative experiences when trying to reintegrate into Irish life.

What if Aoife, like many of those who came before her, becomes inconsolably homesick? What if her elderly grandmother becomes seriously ill? Does she jump on a plane? Its such a long way. What if she herself has an accident? A car crash? An unplanned pregnancy? What if she overstays her visa?

The Irish in Australia confront similar challenges to other Irish emigrants, whether they be in Boston, Birmingham or Berlin. But the tyranny of distance, in my view, compounds the negative implications and makes our situation almost unique. Our remoteness also makes it more difficult for us to agitate for recognition, support and funding from Dublin.

I think there is an excellent case to be made for additional Irish government resources to be deployed here. For example, we have seen the clear benefits of having a consulate in Sydney and an honorary consulate in Perth. Both entities have enriched the experience of Irish emigrants in those cities, not to mention the broader benefit of promoting Irish interests – a key goal of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's Global Ireland 2025 strategy.

Melbourne and Brisbane, cities with very significant emigrant populations, not to mention their own cultural and historical links with Ireland as well as economic and commercial opportunities for Ireland, are still waiting for their consulates.

If people think this is asking too much, just look at Canada, a comparable nation, which has five honorary consuls to Australia’s one.

Similarly, Australia, despite being the number one destination for young Irish over the past 15 years, receives only a tiny proportion of the Emigrant Support Programme (ESP) budget, less than four per cent. More than 92 per cent of ESP funding in 2017 went to Britain, the US and Ireland itself. In per capita terms, emigrants in Australia receive less than one fifth of what their US equivalents get.

Ireland needs a policy that deals exclusively with emigration, emigrants and Irish-born citizens abroad.

Ireland needs a policy that deals exclusively with emigration, emigrants and Irish-born citizens abroad.

In terms of recognition, of the 100 Presidential Distinguished Service Medals which have been handed out to members of the diaspora by successive Irish presidents, only three have come to Australia.

Those issues aside, let me say that Irish emigrants to Australia do not, in my view, face unique obstacles beyond those which are confronted by any other immigrant to this country. The constantly shifting goalposts of the Australian immigration department may be infuriatingly complex, bureaucratic and expensive but that is not something which can be influenced from Dublin. Ireland can’t solve all of our problems.

But I think we would all welcome more open-ended government to government conversations about extending reciprocal privileges for Irish people here and Australian people there. Older migrants, for instance, may want to spend their later years in Ireland or expat families may want to bring their elderly relatives to live here. These choices need to be supported.

Similarly, it is now very difficult for the partners of Irish citizens to secure post-nuptial citizenship in Ireland. The rules surrounding this were changed only in the last 20 years and should, in my view, be revisited.

It has to be said that many of the most negative experiences that citizens abroad have confronted in recent years have come when they have returned to Ireland.

The negative response in elements of the Ireland-based media to the forthcoming referendum on voting rights for the Irish abroad in presidential elections mirrors the experience of many returning emigrants when they confront the dreaded Habitual Residency Condition when trying to reconnect to Irish life.

It seems to be particularly difficult for returning citizens who have been outside of the EU to complete simple tasks like enrolling their kids into school, applying for a homeloan, getting a drivers licence or securing car insurance. Similarly, the fact that young Irish citizens seeking to study at Irish universities are deemed to be foreign students is a problem that demands an imaginative response.

Just this week I received an email from a young Irish couple who in 2016, after five years in Australia, decided to make the big move back home.

Three months ago, they moved back to Australia.

The young mum said: “It really didn’t work out for us. They go on about how they want us back but they make things hard.”

It really didn’t work out for us. They go on about how they want us back but they make things hard.
— Returned Irish emigrant who has decided to emigrate again

So, in summary, Ireland does not need one new policy for the diaspora. It needs two.

One, a policy that deals exclusively with emigration, emigrants and Irish-born citizens abroad. It is written with someone like Aoife in mind. The experience of emigration (or even living and working abroad) sets people like Aoife apart from the broader diaspora. The goal of the policy should be ensure that Aoife has consular support nearby; that there is a well-funded safety net she can fall into and that should she decide to return home, she can do that seamlessly and with minimum fuss. She should be able to vote in all Irish elections for up to five years and her future husband, wife or life-partner should also be able to get Irish citizenship, just like her children will. Extending the voting franchise will also allow other emigrant issues to be given the political currency they deserve.

The second policy should be all about the children of Irish emigrants and their descendants. The goal should be to ensure that their cultural affinity is enhanced and their Hibernian heritage is celebrated but in a practical way that does not seek to patronise or shake

This can be achieved through increased investment in cultural programmes which support the globalisation of Irish culture. The French, through Alliance Française, and the British, through the British Council, have created successful models for just such activity. Irish music, dance, language and literature should provide more than enough content for real engagement for an Irish equivalent.

Ireland’s universities should be compelled (and funded) to participate. Done right, the policy will reinforce Ireland privileged position as a renowned centre of cultural creativitity and deliver flow-on benefits for business, tourism and the economy. If you build it, they will come.

Echo lists top 100 Irish Australians of all time

The late Jim Stynes is on of the Top 100 Irish Australians of all time as listed in the current edition of the Irish Echo. Picture: Lachlan Cunningham

The late Jim Stynes is on of the Top 100 Irish Australians of all time as listed in the current edition of the Irish Echo. Picture: Lachlan Cunningham

What do Ned Kelly, Errol Flynn and Alan Joyce have in common? Like at least one in three Australians, they are of strong Irish heritage. But they are also all included in the Irish Echo’s list of the top 100 Irish Australians of all time.

Swashbuckling Hollywood star Errol Flynn was the son of an Irish biologist.

Swashbuckling Hollywood star Errol Flynn was the son of an Irish biologist.

The list is included in the Irish Echo’s 30th Anniversary edition which has just been published in print and digital form.

The Top 100 includes prime ministers and premiers, priests and poets, medics and musicians as well as the occasional bushranger.

Fourteen of the top 100 are living including Qantas chief Alan Joyce, Sydney Swans Premiership player Tadhg Kennelly and former Australian of the year Prof Patrick McGorry, who was born in Dublin.

Also included are former Hawke government minister Susan Ryan, WIFI inventor Dr John O’Sullivan and former Chief Justice of Australia Sir Gerard Brennan.

The inclusion of former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating and former Liberal NSW Premier John Fahey demonstrates that Irish influence was not confined to one side of politics.

One of the more interesting characters to be included is Constance D’Arcy (1879 - 1950) who was a pioneer for women’s health in New South Wales and became Sydney University’s first Deputy Chancellor.

She is one of a number of trailblazing women including self-styled anthropologist Daisy Bates, famed cellist Maureen O’Carroll and Golden Globe winner Lisa Gerrard.

Dublin-born author and journalist Clare Dunne is among our Top 100 Irish Australians of all time.

Dublin-born author and journalist Clare Dunne is among our Top 100 Irish Australians of all time.

The list is broken down into six categories: Game Changers, Nation Builders, Trailblazers, Pioneers, Visionaries and Saints & Scholars.

Aboriginal Australia is also represented with legendary songwriter Kev Carmody and designer John Moriarty included.

The list includes characters from every period of Australian history since European settlement from rebel transportee Michael Dwyer (1772-1825) and convict-turned-surveyor James Meehan (1774-1826) to modern-day icons like world champion surfer Mick Fanning (whose dad is from Donegal) and football superstar Tadhg Kennelly.

The characters who gave their names to everything from the seat of Wentworth, to the Cahill Expressway, to the the SCG’s O’Reilly stand and Tooheys beer are all included.

Watch: New doco captures Sydney Irish emigrant lives

Tomás De Bhaldraithe is one of the emigrants whose life journey is told in A Lifetime Of Stories.

Tomás De Bhaldraithe is one of the emigrants whose life journey is told in A Lifetime Of Stories.

A new documentary and web project captures the amazing life stories of some Sydney Irish seniors.

The documentary, A Lifetime Of Stories, premiered at the Irish Film Festival in Sydney and is now available online. The film, devised by Enda Murray, features in-depth interviews with a number of older Irish migrants in Sydney and allows them to tell their own stories in their own words.

The participants come from the four provinces of Ireland. Pat Foley, Tomás de Bhaldraithe, Marion Reilly, Marie McMillan and Damien McCloskey reflect on their life journeys with humour and wisdom. Pat Foley, 90, left Moyvane in Co Kerry in the early 50’s and worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Damien McCloskey grew up in Derry and witnessed some of the tumultuous events in that city including Bloody Sunday in 1972. Marion Reilly is from Connemara and had the adventure of a lifetime when she travelled to Australia overland on a hippy bus in the 70’s.

Tomás de Bhaldraithe is from Dublin and is a learned Gaelic scholar and a skilled sailor of Galway hookers.

Marie McMillan is from Dublin. Marie is a skilled performer and has won numerous awards at slam poetry battles around Sydney.

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.

Historic conference harvests ideas on Irish diaspora

Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon addresses the Link Plus gathering at the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra on Saturday.

Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon addresses the Link Plus gathering at the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra on Saturday.

An historic gathering of Australia’s Irish community leaders has heard a range of views about how Ireland can better connect, engage and support its diaspora.

The Link Plus conference, chaired by the visiting Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciaran Cannon, brought together representatives from dozens of Australia’s major Irish groups and organsations to the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra over the weekend.

It was the first time that key representatives of so many of Australia’s Irish community groups had the opportunity to gather and air issues of common concern.

Ideas and initiatives emerging from the discussions will feed into the Irish government’s formulation of a new policy for the global Irish community to be released early next year.

A broad range of ideas and initiatives were discussed including positive and negative experiences of the Irish diaspora in Australia, how to build on Ireland’s global influence, how to better engage those of Irish heritage and how to better connect different sections of the Irish community.

One of the key concerns, highlighted by a number of speakers, was the treatment of returning emigrants, many of whom face significant challenges trying to reintegrate into Irish life.

Problems associated with accessing social services, enrolling children in school and even getting a drivers licence, particularly for emigrants returning to Ireland from outside of the European Union, were highlighted as examples of areas in need of improvement.

The tyranny of distance was also identified as a contributing factor to the unique challenges for the Irish in Australia. Homesickness was highlighted as a potential cause of mental illness among young and not-so-young immigrants.

Australia’s Irish diplomatic corp at the Link Plus conference at the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra.

Australia’s Irish diplomatic corp at the Link Plus conference at the Embassy of Ireland in Canberra.

The fact that young Irish citizens, not resident in the state, are assessed as foreign students when it comes to third level study in Ireland was also raised as a key concern. It emerged that Croatia, another European Union nation, reserves a percentage of its university places for its diaspora was pointed to as an example of a more progressive approach.

Others called for Australia to get more funding from the Emigrant Support Programme. Only four per cent of the approximately €12 million budget makes its way to Australia. In per capita terms, Australia receives one sixth of the funding doled out to America.

Similarly, Ireland’s relatively small diplomatic footprint in Australia was identified as something which potentially puts a brake on economic and other opportunities in Australia. The absence of diplomatic representation in Melbourne and Brisbane was raised a key area for potential growth.

The successful integration of Irish migrants into Australian life was identified as a key positive. But the conference heard that both Ireland and the Australian Irish community needed to work harder to enshrine that positivity and engagement within future generations of the diaspora.

Economic opportunities emanating from Ireland’s diaspora were discussed and there was broad agreement that culture, tourism and business were key areas for development.

Among the speakers were Martha McEvoy, (Friends of Ireland, Canberra); Professor Ronan McDonald (Gerry Higgins Chair in Irish Studies at the University of Melbourne); Ned Sheehy, (President of the Australasian GAA); Clare Murphy (Celtic Club, Melbourne); Seamus Sullivan, (President, Irish Australian Support Association Queensland); Emma Hannigan (Emerald Women’s Leadership Network), Julien O’Connell (Mercy Health and Pro-Vice Chancellor, Catholic Universities), Marty Kavanagh (Honorary Consul of Ireland, Western Australia), Carl Walsh (President of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce), Helen Waldron, (Australian Industry Group); Philip O’Sullivan, (Lansdowne Club); Billy Cantwell (Irish Echo) and Fidelma Breen (University Postdoctoral Fellow, The University of Adelaide).

The questions which were considered included:

What has been the overall experience of the Irish Diaspora in Australia?  What are the positive aspects of being a member of the Irish Diaspora in Australia and are there also negative aspects? How can the positives be built upon and the negatives dispelled? What obstacles the diaspora face?

Global Ireland describes the contribution that a large and committed diaspora has made to Ireland’s reputation and influence in the world including Australia. How do we build on this?

Similarly, diaspora links have provided economic opportunities for Ireland and for Irish people both at home and abroad. How do we support and develop those links?

How do you think that we can better galvanise the Irish Diaspora in Australia to have their interests and concerns better represented locally, and at State and Federal level. What are the examples of best practice at the moment?

There are people in Australia who have a strong interest in, and sense of connection to Ireland and Irish history and culture – our so-called Affinity Diaspora. How do we foster this interest?

Who are the Irish Diaspora in Australia and how do we ensure that their interests and concerns are equally reflected? Is there a communication gap between older and younger Irish people living in Australia and how can this be addressed?