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Why is Ireland snubbing talented citizens who live abroad?

We need to attract experienced members of our diaspora back home to drive economic growth. Refusing them the right to vote pushes them further away.

Sandra Lawler

FOLLOWING THE LAST general election, a commitment was made to increase the voice of the Irish Diaspora. While former minister for arts Jimmy Deenihan was appointed the country’s first Minister of State for the Diaspora in July last year, Irish citizens living overseas are once again being let down as the date for the upcoming referendum draws ever closer.

Opportunities to shape our nation, such as the vote on marriage and the Presidential Age are something those of us living in Ireland take for granted. But the inability of the quarter of a million Irish people who emigrated between 2008 and 2014 to vote simply drives a further wedge between them and their nation of birth.

Offering Irish citizens living abroad a chance to vote in referendums and presidential elections would help forge a stronger bond with the diaspora. This is vitally important, as, for many, the possibility of returning to Ireland in the future will always be inhibited as their emotional ties are allowed to weaken. The truth is that without a vote many Irish abroad feel as if they are second-class citizens.

Attracting experienced members of our diaspora back home

This is something that Ireland can no longer afford to ignore. The hard, cold fact is that improving the potential to attract experienced members of our diaspora back home is needed to help drive a new wave of economic growth and business innovation.

There are over 70 million people overseas who claim Irish heritage. This represents a pool of talent with deep cultural ties to Ireland, which has been largely ignored. As the economy continues to grow, our potential will once again be stymied by skill shortages. This is even though there is a highly skilled pool of talented Irish citizens that Ireland Inc can tap into and attract back home.

The extensive research and international networks established by The Alternatives Group have show that businesses throughout the globe, but particularly in the UK and US, are filled with smart, dynamic and creative Irish people. So it is in Ireland’s best interest to nurture, maintain and develop a strong emotional attachment to Ireland among the Diaspora. Voting rights would be a key factor in achieving this.

Most Irish people living abroad want to remain connected with their country, but we do not make it easy.

Now is a great time for Irish people abroad seeking leadership opportunities to return to Ireland. Both global corporates with operations in Ireland and Irish enterprises operating in international markets are constantly looking for talented leaders who have demonstrated foresight, ambition and initiative through broadening their international experience. The Irish diaspora can provide the solution to many of the skill needs of these organisations and help strengthen Ireland’s economic future on their return.

Encouraging Irish people to reconnect with their country and to return not only makes emotional sense, it makes good business sense for Ireland Inc.

Sandra Lawler is director and co-founder of Alternatives, an award winning talent business. Alternatives’ clients include companies such as O2, Bank of Ireland, Liberty Insurance, Glanbia, Microsoft and Musgrave, amongst others. Alternatives
was a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, winner of the Image Female Entrepreneur of the Year and Chambers Ireland SME CSR Award. 

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About the author:

Sandra Lawler

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