Politics

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.

Australia wants more immigrants to go bush

Most immigrants, including the vast majority of Irish nationals, settle in the larger cities.

Most immigrants, including the vast majority of Irish nationals, settle in the larger cities.

The Australian government is considering banning some immigrants from settling in big cities.

Minister for cities, urban infrastructure and population Alan Tudge said his government wants to cut the number of immigrants moving to Sydney and Melbourne in a bid to reduce congestion in Australia's two biggest cities.

Mr Tudge said placing conditions on visas that force immigrants to stay in less popular centres for several years would increase the likelihood that they would settle in those places permanently.

"Nearly every visa has conditions attached to it, so it wouldn't be unusual to have a geographic attachment to a particular visa," Mr Tudge told the ABC.

Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, but has long had a high proportion of its population - currently 25 million people - living in cities. Around two in every five Australians live in Sydney and Melbourne alone.

The government is considering banning immigrants from settling in Sydney and Melbourne for five years after they arrive in the country.

Australia has the fastest population growth of any advanced Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development country other than Canada, growing 1.6 per cent a year.

But the population of Melbourne grew last year by 2.7 per cent, while the population of the south-east corner of Queensland state around Brisbane and the Gold Coast grew by 2.3 per cent, and Sydney grew by 2.1 per cent.

The main driver of population growth in Sydney and Melbourne was overseas migration, with 87 per cent of skilled migrants to Australia and almost all refugees gravitating to those cities.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian wants a cut to visa numbers.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian wants a cut to visa numbers.

Premier of NSW Gladys Berejiklian, the daughter of Armenian immigrants, said that she believed Sydney needed “a breather” from high immigration numbers.

“It’s time to tap the brakes and take a breather on immigration levels to this state. We should return to Howard-era immigration levels in NSW,” she said.

“I’m the daughter of proud immigrants myself, but it’s clear that successive federal governments have allowed the rate of immigration to NSW to balloon out of control.”

Growth in the Brisbane-Gold Coast region reflected higher levels of population shift within Australia and a higher birthrate.

Mr Tudge said some categories of immigrants would be exempt from geographic blocks.

Migrants who were sponsored by employers - which is the visa pathway for many Irish - would be able to work where employers need them, and those on family reunion visas - typically a foreigner marrying an Australian - would also be free to live where they chose.

Sponsored employees make up 25 per cent of Australia's immigrant intake and family reunion visas make up 30 per cent.

Marion Terrill, an expert on cities and transport from the Melbourne-based Grattan Institute think tank, said governments need to improve infrastructure in major cities rather than curb population growth.

"People are voting with their feet, they want to be in cities and so I think the job for government is to ensure that cities work and that people can get around rather than to try to get people to go where they don't want to go," Ms Terrill said.

Melissa Montero, an immigrant advocate and chief executive of the Sydney-based community migrant resource centre, said immigrants need social support, language services as well as jobs to successfully resettle.

Carla Wilshire, another immigrant advocate and chief executive of Migrant Council Australia in Canberra, suggested the government should invest in services outside Sydney and Melbourne to make smaller towns more attractive to immigrants.

Mark Morey, secretary of Unions NSW, which represents trade unions in New South Wales state, said the government's plan would leave immigrants isolated, with fewer job options and with less pay than they could hope for in big cities.

New PM Morrison quoted Bono in maiden speech

New Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with daughters, Abigail, second from right, and Lily, second from left, and wife Jenny after being sworn in at Government House, Canberra. Picture: Andrew Taylor

New Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with daughters, Abigail, second from right, and Lily, second from left, and wife Jenny after being sworn in at Government House, Canberra. Picture: Andrew Taylor

Newly sworn in Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has no discernible links with Ireland but he did quote Bono in his maiden speech.

Mr Morrison, 50, has promised a stable government at the end of a tumultuous week in which his predecessor was forced out of office, 13 ministers resigned and parliament was shut down for an afternoon.

Disgruntled government legislators forced former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull from office on Friday, arguing that most had lost faith in his leadership.

He is the fourth prime minister to be dumped by their own party since 2010 in an extraordinary period of political instability that frustrates most Australians.

Mr Morrison distanced himself from the turmoil, saying he had not been part of the push led by fellow lawmaker Peter Dutton to oust Mr Turnbull over four chaotic days, inspired by a feud between hard-right conservatives and moderates.

"We will provide the stability and the unity and the direction and the purpose that the Australian people expect of us," Mr Morrison told reporters. "The work of government continues. I want to assure all Australians that those normal wheels are turning."

A devout Christian, who is a member of the Pentecostal church, Morrison is seen as both socially and economically conservative. He is synonymous with the hardline Stop The Boats strategy aimed at intercepting refugees and asylum seekers before they reach Australian shores.

Bono and U2 on stage in the US in 2018.

Bono and U2 on stage in the US in 2018.

In his maiden speech to parliament in 2008 however, he spoke passionately about the plight of African people confronting war, poverty, famine and corruption.

"Africa ... is a humanitarian tragedy on an unimaginable scale," he told the House of Representatives.  "It is a true moral crisis that eclipses all others. The African tragedy is driven by war, poverty, disease, famine, corruption, injustice and an evil that is robbing generations of Africans, our fellow human beings, of their future."

He then quoted Bono.

"Paul Hewson, better known as Bono, said: 'There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames.... when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for ... what we did—or did not do to put the fire out ...'"

Time will tell as to whether Mr Morrison can put the fires of hate out within the parliamentary Liberal Party.

Irish-born former WA senator dies, aged 73

Cavan-born Jim McKiernan has died at the age of 73. 

Cavan-born Jim McKiernan has died at the age of 73. 

Former Labor Senator for Western Australia and proud Cavan-man Jim McKiernan died at his home in Perth on Friday after a long battle with cancer. He was 73.

WA Labor paid tribute to the Irish-born parliamentarian, who represented his state in the Australian Senate from 1985 to 2002.

"Sad news for the WA Labor family today, with the passing of the great Jim McKiernan," they posted.

"A unionist, a great parliamentarian, and one of the great senses of humour in politics.

"From Cavan, Ireland to the Dillingham shipyards in Fremantle, to the Senate in Canberra, his story is one of a working class kid made good, and a life well lived. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. Vale Jim."

The third of eight children of James and Mary (Maisie) McKiernan, Jim left school at age fourteen to help support the family.

He worked as a petrol pump attendant and an abattoir worker before emigrating to England. In 1969, having gained a trade qualification as a first-class machinist, he migrated to Perth,  taking advantage of an assisted passage scheme.

He took on a position as a machinist/fitter and turner at Dillingham Shipyards in Fremantle, where he remained for the next four years.

He joined the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) which later became the Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union (AMWU). In 1976 he was appointed as the AMWU's first full-time education officer in Western Australia,.

He joined the Australian Labor Party and became increasingly immersed in politics.

He put his name forward for preselection to run for a Western Australian Senate seat and in the 1984 half-Senate election, McKiernan was elected to Canberra.

After his first marriage to Jean ended in divorce, McKiernan married Jacqueline (Jackie) Watkins, a sitting member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly who held the seat of Joondalup (1983–89) and, later, the seat of Wanneroo (1989–93).

McKiernan was re-elected to the Senate in 1987, 1990 and 1996, the latter two from the top of the ALP ticket.

During his time in Canberra, he agitated to remove references to the Queen from the oath or affirmation of allegiance to be made by new Australian citizens.

The passage of the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 1993 brought this campaign to a successful conclusion and many Irish permanent residents became Australian citizens as a consequence. According to those closest to him, it was his proudest political achievement.

One of his roles was as returning officer for the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party (1990–96) a role which famously saw him preside over and announce the results of both leadership ballots held between Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, in June and December 1991.

During these contests McKiernan was a vocal Hawke supporter and a critic of Keating, effectively precluding him from a ministerial post under a Keating-led Government. In his final days, Hawke gave him a call to wish him well.

McKiernan became an early victim of Section 44 of the Constitution when he was forced to give up his Irish citizenship before the 1990 election.

He said in 1999: “Regrettably in the late ‘80s I had to, on advice, relinquish my Irish citizenship. It was something I didn't particularly enjoy doing at the time, but it was something I had to do in order to hang on to my job.”

McKiernan remained in the Senate until his retirement in 2002.

He used his valedictory speech to reflect on his personal experience of migration. He stated that his generation of Irish were 'born for the road' and that, in his case, fortune had smiled upon him, in both England and Australia.

According to his parliamentary biography, "His fellow senators lauded his contribution to and expertise in the field of migration and noted the assistance his staff had provided when negotiating difficult migration processes. They also noted that he had brought a great sense of humour to the chamber and had been one of its outstanding characters, with his unorthodox taste in ties drawing considerable comment."

He is survived by his wife Jackie, his and her children Steven, Donna, Jimmy, Lisa, Kim, Kate and Ben, their partners as well as 14 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at Pinnaroo Memorial Park on Monday, August 20 from 3pm. His coffin will be draped in an Irish tricolour and the Eureka flag.

 

 

 

Excluded voters keen to be heard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emigrants urged to travel home to vote in abortion referendum

Abortion Rights campaigners, (left to right) Morgan Maher, Adam Murray and Lute Alraad during a protest outside Leinster House in Dublin. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Abortion Rights campaigners, (left to right) Morgan Maher, Adam Murray and Lute Alraad during a protest outside Leinster House in Dublin. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire

An estimated 40,000 Irish people living abroad are eligible to vote in a planned referendum on abortion.

Campaigners are urging emigrants to return home to cast their ballot and have their say on whether to change restrictive laws on termination of pregnancy.

The Irish Government backed proposals to hold a referendum on the State's Constitution which grants equal right to life of the unborn and the mother.

It is expected to be held in May.

The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign has kicked off its #HomeToVote social media drive.

Dubliner Mary Jane Fox, who moved to the UK at the beginning of the year, has already pledged to make the journey home.

"Even though I'm fresh off the boat in London, I'll be making the journey and encouraging everyone I know to go back too," Ms Fox said.

"It is ironic that so many Irish women are forced to make the same trip in reverse to have an abortion.

"I want to travel home to make sure this comes to an end."

The organisers said they want to emulate the surge in interest by emigrants who came back to Ireland to vote in support of gay marriage reform in May 2015.

The Home to Vote campaign aims to encourage any citizen living abroad for less than 18 months to return to vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which imposes strict limitations on abortion in Irish law.

More than 30,800 Irish people emigrated in the 12 months to the end of April 2017, according to the latest official figures.

It is estimated a further 20,000 emigrated in the second half of last year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlined last week that voters would be asked whether they wanted to repeal the controversial amendment and replace it with new wording to allow parliament to legislate on abortion in the future.

Terminations are only allowed in Ireland when the life of the mother is at risk and the maximum penalty for accessing an illegal abortion is 14 years in prison.

Last December, a report by a specially convened parliamentary committee found the Eighth Amendment was not fit for purpose and should be repealed.

That followed recommendations from members of Ireland's Citizens' Assembly to liberalise the law on terminations.

The committee also recommended abortion be available up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without a woman having to explain her decision.

Barnaby Joyce's Irish roots

Barnaby Joyce treasures his Irish heritage but not his pale Celtic skin.

Barnaby Joyce treasures his Irish heritage but not his pale Celtic skin.

Australia's deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is currently at the centre of a major political controversy.

The Nationals Party leader's marriage has broken down and his new partner, a former staffer almost 20 years his junior, is pregnant with his child.

Back in 2010, the then Senator for Queensland had no such concerns as he told the Irish Echo about his Irish heritage.

What is your Irish background?

My first Irish ancestor to come to Australia was Father Roach a Benedictine priest in 1842. His two brothers, one my direct ancestor Lawrence Roach, followed from County Kilkenny in 1853. On my maternal grandmother’s side the first was an Irish Orphan from the potato famine, Mary Troy, who arrived in 1849 from County Cork. name is noted on the memorial to the Irish orphans near Macquarie Barracks in Sydney. My father came from New Zealand after the Second World War. His grandfather Michael Joyce arrived from County Galway in the 1860s. My wife also has some Irish heritage.

What, in your view, have you inherited from your Irish background?

Obviously my religious conviction and faith. Also, robust but friendly engagement with the people you meet and resilience to go to areas where other people may be less likely to go.

Most importantly, respect for how lucky we are in Australia and, most unfortunately, fair skin which I am trying to breed out by marrying my wife who has an olive complexion.

Much is said about the strong connection between Ireland and Australia but what do you think the Irish legacy has been to Australia?

Bob Hawke said it most succinctly; the Irish colonised the world, not by military power but by character. Go to any pub in the county and you see the strong connection and ethos from the Irish. In Australian literature we borrow a lot from the immense depth and dynamics of Irish writers. Ireland has managed to create an affinity among the Australian people that no matter how dispersed and diminished the Irish blood is in the Irish Diaspora, people proudly claim their Irish connection and that’s a good thing.

Which character from Irish or Irish Australian history would you most like to have met? Why?
 
Archbishop Daniel Mannix. Not that I necessarily agree with everything he said, but he was one of the most  dynamic political figures in Australia even though  he was  never elected to office. Also, Les Darcy the boxer, because he came from a working class area in the Hunter Valley and then became so famous. It would have been interesting to meet the Kelly Gang to see if they were really ratbags.

Have you visited Ireland?

Yes, I stayed with my cousins in Co Cork. Even though we left in the 1850s we’ve been in communication for all that time. My distant but dear Great Grand Aunt used to send me books on how to speak Gaelic from Galway. She must have worried that I was losing the language, which of course I have. I visited Ireland in 1993, and I spent the whole time talking to cousins who seemed to be everywhere.

Do you have a favourite place in Ireland?

Galway. I never thought I’d have a sense of connection because of so much time and distance, but I did get a sense of something deeper there especially when I saw my family name written in Gaelic on the street signs.