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1 August 2017 Edition

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Diaspora engagement is central to the work of Sinn Féin MPs

• Mickey Brady MP speaks on Cairde's international panel in Glasgow

There’s a reason Bill Clinton once remarked: ‘Ireland’s greatest export is its people’

THERE’S A STORY that’s told of an Italian in New York at the turn of the 20th century who wrote home to his family: 

“I came to this country because I had heard the streets were paved with gold. Since getting here, I’ve learnt three things: First, the streets aren’t paved with gold; second, they aren’t paved at all – and third, I’m expected to pave them!”

The sketch is readily transferable to the experience of the Irish diaspora across the globe, an emigrant people who often faced hardship and prejudice. 

Now, however, the Irish diaspora stands today as a rich source of international influence and goodwill. There’s a reason Bill Clinton once remarked: “Ireland's greatest export is its people.”

Rather than sit on the Westminster Parliament’s green benches, appealing to disinterested British parliamentarians, the Sinn Féin team of MPs has resolved to engage the Irish diaspora. This engagement constitutes a vital component of the wider effort to mobilise towards Irish national self-determination. 

On Sunday 25 June, Mickey Brady MP was in Liverpool for the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the Liverpool-Irish who participated in the 1916 Easter Rising. 

The plaque is the first-ever permanent Easter Rising memorial on British soil and lists the names of some 48 Irish men and women “who left Liverpool to fight for Irish freedom”. The tribute is located in St Anthony’s Church in the Vauxhall district of the city.

The following day, Francie Molloy MP was in London for another plaque unveiling. This time the ceremony was at the London Irish Centre and the plaque was dedicated to “The Forgotten Irish”, the men and women who left Ireland for Britain following the Second World War. 

Francie remarked: 

“There probably isn’t a family in Ireland who didn’t see someone go off to London, Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester or elsewhere in Britain to seek better work and to send money back to support those who stayed behind. They should never be forgotten.”

The erection of such permanent memorials reflects a greater sense of confidence and security within the Irish community in Britain.

On Tuesday 27 June, Paul Maskey MP attended the farewell reception for Dan Mulhall, Ireland’s outgoing Ambassador to Britain. In his farewell address, Ambassador Mulhall outlined how 2017 had seen a 70% rise in demand for Irish passports from people based in Britain. The attendance at the reception demonstrated the success of the Irish community in Britain. 

The following week, newly-elected MP Barry McElduff was the keynote speaker at the Annual CHAMP Dinner. CHAMP is a not-for-profit organisation facilitating dialogue and peace initiatives across and between Ireland and Britain. The evening was once more characterised by the attendance of leading Irish business professionals, civic leaders and community activists.

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• Michelle Gildernew MP in Liverpool to mark 'The Great Hunger' of 1845-1852

On Thursday 8 July, Michelle Gildernew MP was in Liverpool to address a community-led commemoration of ‘The Great Hunger’ of 1845-1852. In her address, the Fermanagh & South Tyrone MP praised the Liverpool-Irish for having successfully built a thriving, dynamic community which has become an essential element of the wider city’s character.

That same day, in Glasgow, party colleague Mickey Brady MP addressed an ‘International Solidarity Conference’ organised by Cairde na hÉireann in Scotland. Mickey praised Cairde in Scotland and England for its invaluable work over the years advocating and advancing the cause of Irish unification. Cairde also highlights social issues affecting the Irish community and shows solidarity with international struggles as well as anti-racist activity.

The work of Irish republicans outside of Ireland can often feel like ploughing a lonely furrow, Mickey said, but Sinn Féin’s MPs are committed to lending whatever support and appreciation they can.

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Elisha McCallion MP after meeting with NIO officials in Westminster

On the Twelfth of July, Foyle MP Elisha McCallion held a meeting with the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ireland and the Irish in Britain inside the Westminster Parliament, British Labour Party MP Conor McGinn, to discuss the issues directly impacting on the Irish community in Britain.

Diaspora engagement is not limited to Britain alone.

In June, Paul Maskey MP held a transatlantic conference call with Friends of Sinn Féin Canada who carry out sterling work for the cause of Ireland. Meanwhile, in July, Chris Hazzard MP travelled to the United States for a series of speaking engagements organised by the AOH and LAOH Freedom for All-Ireland Committees in Buffalo, New York.

There remains a fundamental inequality of Irish citizenship that penalises those living outside the 26-County state. Sinn Féin is clear that this must end. The Irish Government has thus far utterly failed to recognise the legitimate rights of the Irish abroad (and even those living in the Six Counties) to vote in elections or have political representation in the Houses of the Oireachtas. 

The 1916 Proclamation spoke of cherishing all the children of the nation equally. Sinn Féin understands that this aspiration includes those Irish who have had to leave Ireland, for whatever reason. Diaspora engagement is central to the work of Sinn Féin MPs.

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