Dublin South West TD, and Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe, has said that in the run up to St. Patrick’s Day events there is usually a focus on the Irish living abroad, but there is very little actual progress from Government to match their rhetoric on emigrant issues.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“During the month of March, when Government Ministers plans are finalised to travel across the globe to celebrate St Patricks Day, the rhetoric usually steps up a notch around diaspora issues.

“This year the focus has been on whether the Taoiseach should travel to the White House with his bowl of shamrocks, given the negative comments and actions coming from the Trump administration towards migrants and other minorities. There is also the usual questioning, in some media circles, of the actual benefits of Ministers traveling, but most people would accept that it is an ideal time to connect with the Irish abroad.

“Government Ministers need to match their St. Patrick’s Day rhetoric with action. They need to robustly stand up for the rights and needs of the diaspora.

“The 50,000 plus undocumented Irish living in the USA are a particular worry this year as they face into the unknown with huge uncertainty and threats of deportation or prison looming.

“We also need to facilitate and support all those who want return home to Ireland. It isn’t words of encouragement or solidarity that many of the returning Irish will need, but concrete Government action on the myriad of problems and obstacles that they face when attempting to return home. Many of these have been identified by advocacy groups and consistently highlighted by myself, yet we have seen little action from Government to tackle them.”

Crowe continued:

“Many returning emigrants face practical difficulties such as obtaining car insurance and are often charged extortionate premiums. There are also the usual problems of having qualifications recognised, accessing education, healthcare and securing accommodation, but none of these challenges should be unsurmountable.

“Many of our financial institutions are creating difficulties which the Government are not addressing. Many banks now demand that recent utility bills be produced as proof of address in order to open a new account. Mobile phone bills are not accepted for this purpose. It is impossible to sign up to utility services in the first place pay utility bills on a regular basis without the facilities of a bank account.

“The issue of Presidential voting rights has not gone away. Minister McHugh has now indicated that an options paper would be put before members of the Global Civic Forum in May. We will hold him to that and his previous promise to have them in place by 2018.”