Politics

Governor-General traces Irish ancestry to Cork village

David Hurley was sworn in as Australia’s 27th Governor-General in July 2019.

David Hurley was sworn in as Australia’s 27th Governor-General in July 2019.

Australia’s newly-appointed Governor-General has traced his Irish roots to a Cork village.

Governor-General David Hurley was able to uncover his family history through the work of dedicated genealogical volunteers.

“I’ve discovered that Murtagh Hurley was transported from County Cork to New South Wales in 1827 for theft…he settled near Cooma,” General Hurley said.

Murtagh is thought to have come from Ballinspittle, the village famed for the first sighting in a string of moving statue phenomena in Ireland over 30 years ago.

“Interestingly, I’ve since discovered that the pub in Ballinspittle is called Hurley’s,” General Hurley said.

“We hope to visit one day!”

Governor-General David Hurley and his wife Linda have swapped Sydney’s Government House for Canberra.

Governor-General David Hurley and his wife Linda have swapped Sydney’s Government House for Canberra.

The Governor-General acknowledged that the formative links forged in his ancestors’ time continued to influence the bond between Australia and Ireland that exists today, with more than two million Australians claiming Irish heritage.

“Today, our historical links are the foundation of an exceptionally close and ongoing friendship between our nations, with bonds ranging from the sporting field, to trade and education.”

General Hurley personally experienced this affiliation early in his career in the Royal Australian Regiment, going on exchange to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.

The former Governor of NSW recalled the achievements of esteemed Irishmen, from the “transformational” work of his predecessor, Dublin-born Sir Richard Bourke who held the role from 1831 to 1837, to the skill of a more unlikely hero.

“More recently, and on a totally different tack, as a rugby fan I always admired Keith Wood, even if I wasn’t such a big fan when he was facing the Wallabies!”

The Governor General hopes to visit Hurley’s Bar in Ballinspittle. The pub first opened in 1864.

The Governor General hopes to visit Hurley’s Bar in Ballinspittle. The pub first opened in 1864.

Ireland Reaching Out’s Laura Colleran said the Consul General of Ireland in Sydney Owen Feeney contacted the organisation to find out more about the Governor-General’s lineage.

“Ireland Reaching Out connects people of Irish origin, living all over the world, with their ancestors place of origin...It is a non-profit organisation funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Heritage Council,” Ms Colleran said.

“We have a volunteer network of over 300 people all over Ireland, and an active group in County Cork.”

Volunteers (pictured) working for Ireland Reaching Out - also known as IrelandXO - link the Irish diaspora with their places of origin.

Volunteers (pictured) working for Ireland Reaching Out - also known as IrelandXO - link the Irish diaspora with their places of origin.

Ms Colleran described uncovering the roots of the Hurley name as one of the highlights of the year for volunteers.

Irish-Australians have embraced the opportunity to reconnect with both their place of origin and family members still living in Ireland, with 87 groups of Australians returning to their ancestral lands with the help of Ireland Reaching out in 2019.

Deportations set to soar under proposed laws

Immigration experts have warned the federal government’s proposed changes to the Migration Act could see the number of non-citizens deported increase five-fold.

Australia’s Minister for Immigration David Coleman introduced legislation to allow the government to cancel the visas of people who have been convincted of a crime that carries a maximum sentence of at least two years, even if they never served time in prison.

Minister Coleman said tightening character tests based on criminal conduct was necessary to protect the community from harmful people.

Immigration Minister David Coleman introduced the legislation in July.

Immigration Minister David Coleman introduced the legislation in July.

In a Senate Committee submission, immigration researchers said the changes would impact those “who are unlikely to be an ongoing threat to the Australian community”, with many non-citizens potentially deported for non-jail time offences such as common assault, which frequently results in the lesser punishments of a fine or community correction order.

Researchers including Abul Rizvi, former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration, said a hardened character test would “immediately expand the number of people failing”, especially as the legislation could be applied retrospectively, and that it would “exacerbate the divide between citizens and non-citizens”.

Read More: Irish-born Australian resident loses court appeal against deportation

The Migration Act was last changed in 2014 under Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, when amendments allowed the immigration minister to cancel a non-citizen’s visa based on association with groups involved in criminal conduct, sexually based offences involving a child, crimes against humanity, and other offences of national and international security concern.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been vocal in opposing the current policy under which people who have lived almost all of their lives in Australia can be sent back to the countries of their birth.

Ms Ardern said the issue had corroded the political relationship between her country and Australia.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s deportation policies.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has criticised Australia’s deportation policies.

From 2012 to 2013, 76 New Zealanders’ 501 Visas were cancelled.

The figure jumped to 1,277 from 2016 to 2017 after the passing of the 2014 amendments.

The new stricter character test proposed by Minister Coleman would be the first to allow deportation of an immigrant who has not served a prison sentence, and could see thousands more non-citizens forced to leave behind their Australian lives and families.

Fintan O'Toole to speak at Sydney 'ideas' festival

Award-winning Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole will appear at Antidote, Sydney’s leading festival of ideas, joining a panel discussion on national identity.

The veteran columnist, author and political commentator has written for The Irish Times for over three decades, with a career-long focus on strong opposition to political corruption in Ireland and abroad.

Fintan O’Toole’s columns on Brexit for The Irish Times and The Guardian have earned him awards and accolades.

Fintan O’Toole’s columns on Brexit for The Irish Times and The Guardian have earned him awards and accolades.

The prolific writer , who penned a bestselling book on Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union entitled Heroic Failure: Brexit And The Politics Of Pain, will bring valuable insight about Boris Johnson’s elevation to prime ministership to the Sydney Opera House.

The State We’re In panel event will see global thinkers discuss the trials and tribulations of a world and political atmosphere obsessed with national borders.

O’Toole is sure to stir up bold conversation, having described the current political landscape a trial run for fascism’s return in a 2018 article read by millions the world over and nominated for a European Press Prize.

Antidote is one of the Opera House’s flagship contemporary festivals, presenting innovative ideas about contemporary culture on stage and through online content.

This year’s event will run from August 31 to September 1, offering seekers of change the chance to come together in an iconic location.

Read More: The State We’re in - Antidote Festival

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."

'Huge weight' lifted as family allowed to stay permanently

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted permanent residency in Australia after a long campaign.

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted permanent residency in Australia after a long campaign.

An Irish family facing deportation after having their visa application rejected have now been granted permanent residency.

Dubliners Christine and Anthony Hyde, who have lived in Australia for a decade, were told they would have to leave Australia after their three-year-old son Darragh was considered a “burden” to the country because of his cystic fibrosis, and the cost of his medication.

But they have now been granted permanent residency after Australia’s Minister for Immigration David Coleman used his discretionary powers to intervene.

Christine Hyde, who had driven a massive online campaign to highlight their case, said the family were “so excited” after hearing the news.

“Late yesterday evening we received the good news that we were granted residency,” she said.

“We are so excited, a huge weight has been lifted and we can continue our lives. We will are completely grateful to everyone. Thank you to everyone who supported us.”

The Hydes’ local MP Damian Drum had taken up their case with the Minister and the Premier of Victoria had also called for them to be allowed to stay.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman has used his ministerial discretion to allow the Hyde family to say in Australia.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman has used his ministerial discretion to allow the Hyde family to say in Australia.

An online petition calling for the Hydes to be allowed to remain in Australia has received over 120,000 signatures.

Earlier, Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews said that he thought the Hydes should be allowed to stay in Australia.

“This is a great family,” he said. “They’ve been SES volunteers and school teachers in their local schools, they’ve have contributed over the past 10 years.

“The young boy was born here, some compassion and some common sense (is needed).

“There’ll be some costs for the medical treatment he needs, but there will be so many more benefits to Seymour, to that local community and indeed for all of us.”

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.

Family granted extension as minister mulls deportation

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted extra time in Australia while their case is considered by the minister.

Darragh Hyde is a cystic fibrosis sufferer. He and his family have been granted extra time in Australia while their case is considered by the minister.

The Australian government has allowed an Irish family to remain in the country while their immigration case is examined.

Dubliners Christine and Anthony Hyde, who have lived in Australia for a decade, were given until today to leave Australia after their three-year-old son Darragh was considered a “burden” to the country because of his cystic fibrosis, and the cost of his medication.

They are now permitted to stay put until their case is reviewed and a decision made.

It is understood that David Coleman, Australia’s Minister for Immigration, has begun looking at Darragh’s case.

“It could be a few weeks, but we will be able to stay until a decision is made,” Mrs Hyde told Yahoo News.

The news comes following the intervention of the Hydes local MP as well as the Premier of Victoria.

Federal member for the seat of Nicholls Damian Drum is backing the Hyde family’s bid to remain in Australia.

“I spoke to David (Coleman) on this case,” Mr Drum told the Irish Echo earlier this month.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman, in whose hands the Hyde family’s destiny now rests.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman, in whose hands the Hyde family’s destiny now rests.

“The Minister is in a very difficult position here. This situation where you have people out here on work visas who have children with severe disabilities, there is a real potential that this could cost the country millions of dollars and everyone understands that.

“If the Minister intervenes in this case, it will set a precedent so we have to be very careful,” he explained.

An online petition calling for the Hydes to be allowed to remain in Australia has received over 115,000 signatures.

Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews also believes that the Hydes should be allowed to stay in Australia.

“This is a great family,” he said. “They’ve been SES volunteers and school teachers in their local schools, they’ve have contributed over the past 10 years.

“The young boy was born here, some compassion and some common sense (is needed).

“There’ll be some costs for the medical treatment he needs, but there will be so many more benefits to Seymour, to that local community and indeed for all of us.”

The Minister for Immigration David Coleman has been approached for comment.

Trump confirms Irish visit in June

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Washington DC in March.

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Washington DC in March.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will visit Ireland while on a visit to Europe in June, a White House spokesman has said.

Mr Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will hold a "bilateral meeting" on June 5 in Shannon.

The trip has already been subject to reported controversy over the venue of the talks.

The president's visit to Ireland is set to be largely private, with Mr Trump expected to base himself at the golf resort he owns in Doonbeg, Co Clare.

Rumours of a disagreement have been reported that focus on whether the meeting with Mr Varadkar would take place on Mr Trump's property at Doonbeg - the president's apparent preference - or on more neutral ground.

Irish authorities reportedly preferred nearby Dromoland Castle.

But Simon Coveney, Ireland's deputy premier, said reports of a stand-off over locations were exaggerated and not true.

On Monday, it was reported that Mr and Mrs Trump would join the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall for afternoon tea while on a three-day visit to the UK, which begins on June 3.

The couple will also be guests of the Queen.

The president's formal visit follows a working trip to the UK last summer that sparked demonstrations across the country.

Campaigners are again hoping to fly a blimp, depicting the US president as a nappy-wearing baby, over London, after it was hoisted in Parliament Square during protests against the US leader's last trip.

The protesters have been accused by former Tory chief whip Lord Jopling of "mindless idiocy".

The visit to Ireland and the UK are part of Mr Trump's wider trip to Europe, which will include events in France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

President of Ireland pays tribute to Bob Hawke

The late Bob Hawke pictured recently with current labor leader Bill Shorten.

The late Bob Hawke pictured recently with current labor leader Bill Shorten.

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins has added his tribute to the late Bob Hawke, who died on Thursday.

"I have learned with sadness of the death of Bob Hawke, Australia’s 23rd Prime Minister, former leader of the Labor party and trade union leader,” the president said in a statement.

”Bob Hawke inspired great enthusiasm and faith among Australians of all generations in the power of politics to make meaningful changes in society, to the benefit of those often excluded. His emphasis on consensus-driven change and social partnership arrangements left an important legacy.

“He will also be remembered for the international leadership he gave, as trade union leader, in his opposition to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. On behalf of the people of Ireland, may I express condolences to the people of Australia and in particular to his family, friends and colleagues.”

Ireland’s ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí with Bob Hawke.

Ireland’s ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí with Bob Hawke.

Mr Hawke, who was 89, was Australia's longest-serving Labor Party prime minister.

In a tweet, Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia Breandán Ó Caollaí described Mr Hawke as a “great friend of Ireland”.

In October 1987, Mr Hawke became the third Australian Prime Minister to visit Ireland after Bob Menzies and Gough Whitlam.

But he became the first Australian Prime Minister, and only the third foreign political leader after John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, to address a joint sitting of the Oireachtas.

In that speech, he described Ireland as “the head of a huge empire in which Australia
 and the United States are the principal provinces”.

“It is an
 empire,” he said, “acquired not by force of Irish arms but by force of
 Irish character, an empire not of political coercion but of
 spiritual affiliation, created by the thousands upon thousands
 of Irish men and women who chose to leave these shores or
 who were banished from them, to help in the building of new
 societies over the years.
“

“It is true that more of your fellow-countrymen and forefathers
 became American than Australian. But it is true, too,
 that the Irish form a greater proportion of the Australian
 population than of the American. Indeed, almost one-third
 of Australia's population proudly claim Irish ancestry.


Bob Hawke (right) during his visit to Ireland in 1987. Also pictured is Jacqueline O’Brien, Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, horse trainer Vincent O’Brien and Maureen Haughey.

Bob Hawke (right) during his visit to Ireland in 1987. Also pictured is Jacqueline O’Brien, Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, horse trainer Vincent O’Brien and Maureen Haughey.

He also paid tribute to the “seminal role” of the Irish in the establishment of the trade union movement and the Labor Party itself.

“A number of my predecessors as Labor Prime Minister including 
the incomparable John Curtin and Joseph Benedict
 Chifley were of Irish extraction. In the way Curtin devoted
 himself to the task of leading Australia through the Second
 World War, the Irish attributes of dedicated and selfless
 commitment, determination, character and courage shine
 through.

“It is equally easy to see an Irish-derived compassion
 and vision in his successor Chifley's sweeping reconstruction
 of the Australian economy to equip it for the challenges of
 peacetime.

“Among today's generation of Labour leaders, the Irish
 tradition is still strong and if you looked at a list of my
 Ministers you would see enough names like Bowen, Keating,
 Hayden, Kerin, Walsh, Young, Ryan, Duffy and Kelly to
 satisfy even the most nationalistic among you. indeed, half of my Ministry claims Irish origin so now you may understand 
even more clearly why I feel at home [here].


“Australia is very much the richer for having been able to
 draw on the generous influx of Irish aspirations, Irish traditions,
 and Irish spirit. We would not be the country we are
 today were it not for you.”

 

Skilled migrants facing tougher path to residency

Australia’s political leaders are nervous about immigration levels.

Australia’s political leaders are nervous about immigration levels.

Skilled workers looking to get sponsored by Australian companies face a more treacherous path to permanent residency no matter who gets elected this weekend.

Both Labor and the Coalition are promising further restrictions to temporary skilled visa holders and stricter rules for businesses looking to sponsor foreign workers.

Labor are under pressure from the union movement to protect Aussie jobs. The coalition has linked congestion problems in Australia’s biggest cities to high immigration numbers.

Labor has pledged to increase the minimum pay rate for foreign workers on skilled visas from $53,900 to $65,000 “to ensure it is not cheaper to bring in an overseas worker than pay a local worker.”

Immigration expert John McQuaid said this measure would hit workers in the hospitality industry hardest.

He said: “Unsurprisingly, the parties are not pandering to those on temporary visas because they can’t vote.

“With the raising of income on 457-styles visa, areas like hospitality and the service industry would be hurt most because they’ve been historically lower paid.  Café and restaurant staff and managers will find it tougher to get sponsored if this happens.”

The number of Irish workers applying for skilled visas in Australia is falling.

The number of Irish workers applying for skilled visas in Australia is falling.

A tightening of immigration rules and the ending of the 457 visa programme last year has made it more difficult for skilled workers to get sponsored by employers.

Figures from the Department of Home Affairs show 1,470 primary applications for a skilled visa were granted to Irish people up to June 30, 2018.

This was a 22 per cent fall on the previous year when 1,900 Irish people were granted a skilled visa.

The coalition government introduced Labor Market Testing to ensure Australians are always given priority for local jobs.  Employers can only bring in overseas workers if they can not find a suitable local candidate.

Businesses who hire a foreign worker must also pay upwards of $1,200 into a training fund for Australian workers.

If elected, Labor says it will clampdown on employers who “artificially inflate salaries” by offering foreign workers substandard accommodation and inflated overtime hours.

It also plans to “restrict temporary work visas to jobs where there is a genuine skills shortage” and to introduce what it calls the Australian Jobs Test to prevent labour agreements from being entered into unless they create jobs for local workers.

It will also crack down on “unqualified temporary workers” with mandatory off-shore testing of foreign workers skills before a visa can be issued.

Extra funds will be used to increase workplace inspections and investigate employers who breach work visa regulations.

Would-be migrants prepared to live and work in rural areas for three years have a more linear path towards permanent residency.

Would-be migrants prepared to live and work in rural areas for three years have a more linear path towards permanent residency.

While these measures will make it more challenging to get sponsored, a new regional visa programme offers new opportunities for Irish people willing to move to rural areas.

Unveiled by the Liberal government in March, the new scheme offers 23,000 visas for skilled workers who are willing to live and work in regional Australia.

After three years of regional work, visa holders can apply for permanent residency.

Skilled migrants will be priority processed and can access a larger pool of jobs on the eligible occupation lists compared to those who live in major cities.

John McQuaid said the regional visas, which will be available from November 2019, offer new opportunities for Irish people who are willing to look beyond the big cities.

“There’s going to be additional occupations on the list for people willing to apply for regional visas. It will open up options for some people who previously didn’t qualify,” he explained.

“It could also be an attractive option for Irish people who grew up in rural Ireland who are much more at home in rural Australia than in the big cities and there’s plenty of promise in regional locations.”

While the regional visas offer a possible new pathway in, the Liberals have reduced the permanent migration cap by 15 per cent from 190,000 to 160,000 for the next four years.

Labor also believes an intake of 160,000 permanent migrants each year is “about right”.

Scott Morrison also hopes to attract more students to study in regional Australia with $15,000 scholarships being offered to 1,000 domestic and international students.

International students who study at regional universities can apply for an additional year in Australia on a post-study work visa.

Labor plan to relax grandparent visa scheme

Labor have promised to make it easier and cheaper for immigrants to bring their parents to Australia.

Labor have promised to make it easier and cheaper for immigrants to bring their parents to Australia.

Labor has promised to make it easier for immigrants to bring their elderly parents to Australia.

The new 870 visa allows older parents to “reunite” with their children and grandchildren in Australia for extended periods.

If elected on Saturday, Labor has promised to reduce the cost of a five year visa from $10,000 to $2,500 while a three year visa would decrease from $5,000 to $1,250.

The ALP has also pledged to remove the current cap of 15,000 visa places which would allow expat families to ‘sponsor’ both sets of parents instead of being restricted to just one set under existing visa regulations.

The Sponsored Parent Temporary Visa 870 was introduced last month by the Coalition government to allow Australian citizens or permanent residents to move their parents here for extended periods.

The 870 visa allows elderly parents to live here on a three or five year visa for a maximum of 10 years but does not allow them to work.

There is no minimum or maximum age limit for parents who wish to apply but they must show they have sufficient funds to support themselves whilst living here.

Those wishing to avail of these visas will need to take out private health insurance as they will not be covered by Medicare.

The child who is sponsoring the visa also commits to covering any health or age related expenses that may be incurred by their parents whilst living in Australia and must first be approved as a sponsor before a parent being can apply for the visa.   The sponsorship application fee is $420.

The sponsor must undergo police checks and have a minimum household income of $83,454 to qualify.

The new 870 visa allows Australian residents to ‘sponsor’ their parents to come to Australia for up to five years.

The new 870 visa allows Australian residents to ‘sponsor’ their parents to come to Australia for up to five years.

Applications from sponsors opened on April 17, and if approved, parents can apply for the 870 visa from July 1.

Unlike other parent visas, the 870 visa does not require the parent to meet the Balance of Family rule.

But the parent must have a child who holds Australian citizenship or permanent residency.

Immigration expert John McQuaid said the visas are attractive for Irish families who have permanent residency and would like to bring grandparents over to spend more time with grandchildren

He said: “It’s very attractive for couples in Australia who are starting to have children and would like to bring the grandparents out to help mind the children or just to spend quality time with their grandkids.

“The downside is there are no work rights for the grandparents and the family have to be able to show they have financial capacity to look after the grandparents while they are here.

“It’s a big financial commitment not to work for 3 or 5 years but it does suit some older grandparents who are retired and have good pensions.”

McQuaid said the new parent visas are in “big demand” and urged anyone who is interested to apply immediately as the quota will be filled quickly.

Applications for parents to apply (once their child has been approved as sponsor) open on July 1 and once filled, it will not re-open again until July the following year.

It’s very attractive for couples in Australia who are starting to have children and would like to bring the grandparents out to help mind the children or just to spend quality time with their grandkids.
— Immigration expert John McQuaid

The Liberal party has branded Labor’s proposal to remove the 15,000 cap if elected as “completely unsustainable.”

The Productivity Commission has estimated that the cost to taxpayers of a permanent parent visa holder was between $335,000 and $410,000 per adult.

John McQuaid has warned voters to take election promises on immigration with “a pinch of salt.”

He said: “When it comes to election time, immigration is a real political football –both parties love to shout about how they are going to fix the immigration situation.  Its electioneering. 

“If they (Labor) uncap the parent visas, Australia would be flooded with old people and it’s highly unlikely that would happen in my view.

“I think they might increase the quota but I can’t see them totally removing the cap.”

More details on how to apply for the 870 visa are available here.

Shorten pledges fresh vote on republic

Labor leader Bill Shorten campaigning on the NSW Central Coast. Picture: Lukas Coch

Labor leader Bill Shorten campaigning on the NSW Central Coast. Picture: Lukas Coch

Bill Shorten has promised to hold a vote on Australia becoming a republic if Labor wins the election.

In its budget costing plan released on Friday, the Australian Labor Party has put aside $55 million to stage a public vote on the issue in 2021-22.

It plans to first hold a national plebiscite to gauge the level of public support to replace the Queen as head of state with an Australian.

If that vote achieves enough support, a referendum would then need to be held to change the Constitution.

In a referendum, the change is only passed if it wins the support of the majority of voters and more than half of states and territories.

In 1999, a public vote on the issue failed with 55 per cent of Australians voting to keep the British monarch as head of state.

In a bitter campaign, many republicans voted against the move as they wanted the new head of state to be directly elected - similar to the Irish model - instead of one appointed by parliament as was proposed.

The Queen, who has recently turned 93, last visited Australia in 2011.

In an opinion piece written for The Age website in 2015, Mr Shorten laid out his commitment to holding a vote on Australia becoming a republic if elected to power.

He said: “We should go to our region and the world proudly independent – declaring that we are no longer going to borrow a monarch from another country on the other side of the world. 

“Our constitution came into being as an act of the British parliament – 114 years later, our nation has changed, our place in the world has changed, and our constitution should change with it. 

“The republic debate is a chance for all of us to bring our constitution home, to vote our national birth certificate into existence as an Australian document, for our times.”

The Liberal/National coalition has no plans to change the current constitutional arrangements.

High salaries 'attracting emigrants home' claims Minister

Pictured at a green-lit Sydney Town Hall are (from left): Owen Feeney, Consul General of Ireland; Linda Scott, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney; Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation; Breandán Ó Caollaí, Irish Ambassador in Australia, and Sofia Hansson, director of, Tourism Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Pictured at a green-lit Sydney Town Hall are (from left): Owen Feeney, Consul General of Ireland; Linda Scott, Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney; Heather Humphreys, Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation; Breandán Ó Caollaí, Irish Ambassador in Australia, and Sofia Hansson, director of, Tourism Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys says the salary levels on offer in Ireland are attracting emigrants home.

“Our economy is good,” she told the Irish Echo during her recent visit to Australia. “The wages back home are attracting people back to Ireland. For that reason, there are more people coming back to Ireland than leaving right now.”

A large number of expat nurses sent a strong message of solidarity with their striking colleagues in Ireland during the recent industrial action. Protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth featured banners with a clear message for the Irish government: “Give us a reason to come home”.

Did the minister have a message for those nurses?

“The HSE always welcomes nurses back and has established a ‘Bring Them Home’ campaign to support nurses to make the move back,” she said.

“There are a range of incentives to encourage Irish nurses who currently live abroad to consider returning home and joining the Irish health service. Those incentives include up to €1500 in vouched removal relocation expenses including the cost of flights, nursing registration costs and a funded postgraduate education.”

The Government could not say how many nurses had taken advantage of the Bring Them Home incentives, but according to figures published under a Freedom of Information request, fewer than 150 nurses returned under the scheme in 2017.

Ministeer Humphreys with diplomatic, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland staff in Sydney.

Ministeer Humphreys with diplomatic, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland staff in Sydney.

The minister spoke at a number of events about the important role the diaspora has to play in Ireland’s future. She also opened the new Irish Support Agency offices at The Gaelic Club in Surry Hills. One way to engage Irish citizens abroad is to allow them to vote in elections. Does she personally support extending the voting franchise to Irish citizens abroad?

“This is something that the Government has looked at and we’re going to bring forward a referendum [on whether Irish citizens abroad can vote in presidential elections] and leave that decision to the people.”

Ireland is one of the few western democracies which does not allow its citizens abroad to vote.

Meanwhile, Australia is very much part of the Irish government’s plans to explore new markets to diffuse the impact of Brexit, according to Minister Humphreys.

“Diversifying our markets is part of our Brexit strategy,” she told the Irish Echo. “We consider Australia to be a very good opportunity. I know its a long distance but the world is a small place now. There are many opportunities for Irish companies here.”

She also said that Ireland provides excellent opportunities for Australian companies.

Asia’s largest fintech innovation hub, Stone & Chalk (S&C), has partnered with Enterprise Ireland, as a landing pad in both Sydney and Melbourne for Irish fintech companies seeking to enter Australian and Asia Pacific markets. From L-R: Kevin Sherry, Executive Director, Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland; Hannah Fraser, Senior Market Advisor, Australia/New Zealand, Enterprise Ireland; Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D.; Alex Scandurra CEO Stone & Chalk; Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí, David Eccles, Director, Australia/New Zeland Enterprise Ireland.

Asia’s largest fintech innovation hub, Stone & Chalk (S&C), has partnered with Enterprise Ireland, as a landing pad in both Sydney and Melbourne for Irish fintech companies seeking to enter Australian and Asia Pacific markets. From L-R: Kevin Sherry, Executive Director, Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland; Hannah Fraser, Senior Market Advisor, Australia/New Zealand, Enterprise Ireland; Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys T.D.; Alex Scandurra CEO Stone & Chalk; Ambassador Breandán Ó Caollaí, David Eccles, Director, Australia/New Zeland Enterprise Ireland.

“They see Ireland as a gateway into the European Union. Ireland will be the only English language country left in the European Union when the UK leaves.”

The Minister said the fintech sector is particularly active. A number of Australian enterprises, including Macquarie Bank, are seeking licences to operate in Ireland.

“We welcome that,” she said. “Their corporate governance structures are very similar to ours. They’re happy that our government regulation is strong and we have a stable country. So they know, when they business with us, we do what it says on the tin.”

Ms Humphreys led an eight-day trade and investment mission, covering Melbourne, Sydney and Perth and Singapore. Seventy-one Enterprise Ireland client companies participated in 24 business events and pre-arranged meetings with potential business partners including Telstra, Optus, ANZ Bank, CBA, Cochlear, BT Financial, NAB Bank, Deloitte, Macquarie Bank, Stone and Chalk, and Amazon Web Services.

The minister confirmed plans to open new Enterprise Ireland offices in Melbourne as part of the Government’s Global Ireland 2025 strategy. She would not be drawn on whether the absence of diplomatic representation in Melbourne and Brisbane would be addressed. Perth has an honorary consul.

“We will continue to expand our representation through Global Ireland so whether its our agencies opening new offices or the diplomatic service, we’re always looking to increase our presence all over the world,” the Minister added.

Trump set to visit Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrock in Washington DC. Picture: Brian Lawless

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presents US President Donald Trump with a bowl of shamrock in Washington DC. Picture: Brian Lawless

US president Donald Trump has confirmed he will visit Ireland later this year.

Mr Trump told Leo Varadkar that he wanted to make the trip during a meeting with the Taoiseach in the Oval Office in the White House on Thursday.

Mr Varadkar is on his annual St Patrick's Day tour to the United States.

Mr Trump said: "I am coming at some point during the year. I missed it last time and I would've loved to have been there. It's a special place and I have a very warm spot for Doonbeg, I will tell you that, and it's just a great place."

One of Mr Trump's golf courses is in the Co Clare village of Doonbeg.

The Taoiseach presented the US president with a bowl of shamrock to mark his St Patrick's visit to Washington DC. The bowl presented to Mr Trump, in the company of his wife, Melania, was made at Kilkenny Crystal in Callan, the home town of Irish-American architect James Hoban. Mr Hoban designed both Leinster House in Dublin and the president's official residence, the White House.

Mr Varadkar said: "The American economy is booming. More jobs. Rising incomes. Exactly what you said you'd do. However, I believe the greatness of America is about more than economic prowess and military might.

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office. Picture: Brian Lawless

US President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office. Picture: Brian Lawless

"It is rooted in the things that make us love America - your people, your values, a new nation conceived in liberty. The land and the home of the brave and the free."

The Taoiseach added that the futures of the US and Ireland were entwined.

"I believe that future generations of our citizens should have the same opportunity to enrich one another's societies as past generations have," he said.

Mr Trump, who was joined on stage by US vice president Mike Pence, said that millions of Americans across the country celebrate the "inspiring" Irish people on St Patrick's Day.

He also welcomed the Taoiseach's partner Matt Barrett, who also attended the event.

Mr Trump added: "I know many Irish people and they are inspiring, they're sharp, they're smart, they're great and they are brutal enemies so you have to keep them as your friend. Always keep them as your friend.

"You don't want to fight with the Irish, it's too tough, it's too bloody."

He reminded the crowd that the shamrock tradition began almost 70 years ago when Ireland's first ambassador to the United States, John Hearne, gave then US president Harry Truman a small box of it. He added that he accepted the gift as a symbol of America's "enduring friendship" with Ireland.

"The Irish are confident and fearless. They never give up, they never give in," he added.

Earlier, the US president said Brexit was "tearing countries apart".

President Donald Trump, right, talks with, from left, Congressman Richard Neal, Leo Varadkar, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Capitol Hill in Washington. Picture: Susan Walsh

President Donald Trump, right, talks with, from left, Congressman Richard Neal, Leo Varadkar, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Capitol Hill in Washington. Picture: Susan Walsh

The president, who set out his hopes for a "large scale" US-UK trade deal, added that: "I'm not sure anybody knows" what was happening with Brexit.

"It's a very complex thing right now, it's tearing a country apart. It's actually tearing a lot of countries apart and it's a shame it has to be that way but I think we will stay right in our lane," Mr Trump said.

The two leaders discussed Brexit as well as a number of Irish-US specific matters. Afterwards Mr Varadkar said he had a "really good meeting" with President Trump.

"We spoke about Brexit. Needless to say we have very different views on Brexit as to whether it's a good thing, but it was a real opportunity for me to set out Ireland's position, particularly when it comes to protecting the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement and protecting the border."

Mr Varadkar also said the leaders spoke about the issue of the undocumented Irish in the US.

"We talked about immigration. Very strong support from the president around the issue of securing more visas for Irish people to come and work here in the US, and (to) help us solve the issue of tens of thousands of Irish people who came here a long time ago but are undocumented," the Taoiseach said.

Earlier on Thursday US vice-president Mike Pence confirmed he was also planning a trip to Ireland with his mother Nancy. Mr Pence made the comments at a breakfast meeting with Mr Varadkar and his partner at the vice-president's residence in the capital.

During the meeting Mr Varadkar said that he is not judged by his sexual orientation but by his political actions.

"I stand here leader of my country, flawed and human but judged by my political actions and not by my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs." Mr Varadkar added: "I don't believe my country is the only one in the world where this story is possible. It's found in every country were freedom and liberty are cherished. We are, after all, all God's children. And that's true of the United States as well, the land of hope, brave and free."



A victory for hope over fear, says re-elected president

President Michael D Higgins and his family celebrate his re-election.

President Michael D Higgins and his family celebrate his re-election.

Michael D Higgins has welcomed his re-election as president of Ireland as a vote for hope over fear.

The 77-year-old poet, professor and campaigner secured his second term in office with a landslide margin of more than 55% of the vote.

Speaking in Dublin Castle after he was re-elected, Mr Higgins said: "The people have made a choice as to which version of Irishness they want reflected at home and abroad.

"It is the making of hope they wish to share rather than the experience of any exploitation of division or fear."

He said his version of Ireland is one which draws on traditional genius and contemporary creativity.

"The presidency belongs not only to any one person but to the people of Ireland.

"I will be a president for all the people, for those who voted for me and those who did not.

"I am so proud of this country, I am proud to be a president for all of you and with all of you, and I look forward with joy and hope to all that we will achieve together."

Mr Higgins, who has served at almost every level of politics, is a fluent Irish speaker and a long-time campaigner for equality.

He made history in 2014 when he became the first Irish president to undertake an official state visit to the UK.

There were loud cheers as the father-of-four embraced friends and supporters as he celebrated his victory.

Ireland's premier Leo Varadkar hailed Mr Higgins's re-election as an "historic victory".

"You secured 822,566 first preference votes which is the highest first preference vote by any candidate," he said.

"That is an extraordinary endorsement of the last seven years of your presidency and a really strong mandate for the next term of office over the next seven years."

Businessman Peter Casey, initially an outside contender whose last-minute surge in the polls following critical comments about the Travelling community saw him propelled into second place, got 23% of the vote.

In his speech, Peter Casey congratulated President Higgins.

"It's been amazing, it's been a real experience the past six weeks or so," he said.

"I'd like to congratulate President Higgins and wish Sabina a wonderful seven years.

"I'm sure the sentiments you described so wonderfully there, I'm sure they are shared by everyone here - wishing you all the very, very best."

Gavin Duffy, who gained just 2% of the votes, said: "Was I disappointed? Yes. Did I have regrets? No."

Sinn Fein faced a disappointing result, with candidate Liadh Ni Riada gaining half of the support achieved by the late Martin McGuinness in 2011.

After receiving 6% of the vote, she said it was important the election was held, rather than allowing Mr Higgins to return to office unchallenged.

"The people of Ireland spoke today and spoke with a resounding yes to put Michael D Higgins back in office," she said, congratulating the president.

Mrs Ni Riada also said she hopes voters in Northern Ireland would soon be able to vote in Irish presidential elections. A referendum on the issue is anticipated next year.

In her speech, Joan Freeman, who received 6% of the vote, singled out the president's wife Sabina.

"I'm so happy for you Sabina," she said.

"The people who voted for me - thank you for that."

In the longest speech of any of the defeated candidates, Sean Gallagher, who gained around 6% of the vote, expressed pride in the campaign he and his team had run.

"Together we put forward ideas that can shape the future and today is not the end of those ideas," he said.

Mr Higgins has long championed an ethical Republic and has repeatedly addressed issues surrounding memory, commemoration, identity and the conflicting traditions on the island.

The refugee crisis in Europe and the plight of migrants has been a favourite topic, as well as the importance of the arts and Ireland's great literary tradition.