“We need help. Send cash and shut up.”

10 Jan

There was an interesting debate over on the Telegraph’s Expat blog over whether Irish emigrants should be allowed to vote. I’d just like to highlight one of the comments, which I think was an important summary of one aspect of the issue.

Some of the discussion was over the level of help that Irish officials are seeking from the diaspora. I said this:

As for playing a role in the life of the nation, we are talking about our citizens here – according to our constitution, they ARE the nation. And they’re also the “unofficial ambassadors” lauded by President McAleese, and the “huge and willing resource” praised by the Taoiseach as he launched the Smart Economy strategy. If you read that strategy and most of the other strategies coming out of various government departments these days, you’ll realise that our emigrants and the diaspora are being asked to play a very big part in Ireland’s economic future. Their economic participation is welcome – in fact, the Irish government has been studying international models of economic engagement and has a goal of being the best in the world at this kind of diaspora engagement.

But political engagement is taboo, and Ireland is nearly alone in the EU on this – every other country in the EU (bar Greece, which lost a court case and will presumably be changing its policy) [allows their emigrants to vote]. The current situation is not balanced – Irish people living abroad should have some say in their own government.

Kevin Lyda summed it up much better than I did:

Current official Ireland attitude towards emigrants: we need help, send cash and shut up.

The suggested alternative: we need help, please participate fully in fixing our country.

One of those seems better…

If we’re serious about the diaspora being one of our greatest assets – and we should be – we need to focus on developing this relationship to its maximum potential. We need the collective wisdom of our entire global citizenry now: we’re only hurting ourselves by closing our emigrants out of political debate.

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