In other words, Ireland, now the 18th richest country on earth, would allocate hundreds of millions of euros to countries a lot less well off. This renewed pledge has to be welcomed.
During his visit to New York Cowen also announced his department’s annual aid package to immigrant support groups and aid centers around the United States. This year’s sum was $300,000.
What precise percentage point of Ireland’s current GNP $300,000 amounts to is unclear, but it is fair to say that it is a lot less than 0.7 percent. In fact, its off the radar altogether.
This is not to say that the money is unwelcome or that the roughly $3.6 million donated by successive Irish governments to help immigrants in the U.S. since 1990 is derisory. It was always as well meant as it was, we trust, well spent.
But the world has moved on a lot since 1990 and the needs of that time offer no little clue to the needs of the present.
The government’s own Task Force on Policy Regarding Emigrants has recommended a substantial increase in the U.S. allocation over the next few years. The total, according to the task force, should rise to euro 2 million next year and to euro 6 million by 2005.
This are low-ball figures. In fact, the task force was thinking in even higher terms but decided that it would take time for capacity in the voluntary sector to expand enough to absorb the higher volumes of cash. Hence the more restrained cash recommendation.
The situation for Irish immigrants in the U.S. differs greatly from other popular emigrant destinations, most notably Britain and Australia.
Here, a disproportionate number of Irish immigrants are undocumented and are, in many cases, denied access to the kind of financial, legal, and welfare resources that are taken for granted by citizens or legal permanent residents.
Caught in a squeeze play between tougher immigration laws and growing attachments to their adopted homeland, these undocumented Irish will, over time, inevitably become more dependent on the services of the Irish centers.
Those centers will not be able to provide sufficient services with grants that in some cases fall short of the salary of one employee.
The Irish government should quickly embrace and put into effect the financial aid recommendations contained in the task force report.