€100,000 fund for returning entrepreneurs
By Adam Shaw
Returning Irish emigrants looking to set up a business could benefit from a new support fund provided by the Irish Government. Joe McHugh, Minister for the Diaspora, announced that the Department of Foreign Affairs would test-drive a €100,000 (£84,500) programme over the coming year.
Funding would be made available to any recently returned Irish entrepreneurs across all fields. It is hoped that it would help those facing practical issues upon returning as well as encourage those thinking about going back to actually do so.
“I have met many Irish emigrants around the world who want to return home but are concerned about the challenges they face,” Mr McHugh said.
– Returning emigrants face challenges unique to them –
“Research suggests that time spent living abroad improves capacity to succeed in creating and growing businesses. Yet returning emigrants face challenges unique to them in setting up business.
“These include gaps in personal and professional networks, support, and up-to-date local knowledge, which would be crucial to successful establishment of new businesses.”
The programme will run for one year, at the end of which it will be reviewed, measuring its impact. Speaking at the second Global Irish Civic Forum, Irish Minister for Foreign affairs, Charles Flanagan, said it was important to consistently strengthen relations between Ireland and its diaspora.
“In a year of much change I welcome the opportunity to reconfirm our commitment to and connection with our diaspora,” he said. “Irish heritage, and its associated values, are not something that diminish over time or distance and the level of participation at this Civic Forum is testament to this fact.”
The Ministers’ comments come after a recent report by Crosscare Migrant Project which highlighted the most challenging aspects faced by emigrants returning to Ireland. Results from a survey completed by 400 people showed that employment and accommodation costs were among their greatest concerns. Administrative issues, reintegration into Irish life and culture and questions surrounding social support were also deemed to be particularly troublesome.
– Struggles in finding work –
Some respondents noted the issues raised by the differentiation between qualifications in Ireland and elsewhere in the world. Others spoke of their struggles in finding work, particularly when it came to securing full-time permanent employment. Complaints about accommodation were common, with one respondent claiming that “it’s one thing paying high prices in London beside a tube stop, quite another in some Irish suburb with poor transport links”.
The situation in Dublin received particular criticism. It was described as “chaotic” and “very expensive” while the prospect of owning a home seems like a pipe dream.
“It is impossible to save for a mortgage given the exorbitant rents in Dublin. Finding a flat, when they are rented within hours of being advertised, was extremely difficult,” one respondent said.
Another accused those in power of “making life difficult” and “putting obstacles in front of people” when it was meant to be in the midst of a recovery. Of those who replied, more than four in five said the main reason for returning was proximity to family.
Just over half, however, said they definitely intend to stay in Ireland permanently, with some citing the struggle to reintegrate as a reason for potentially leaving again. One in five people specifically mentioned this in their responses, describing Irish attitudes as “more closed and insular” and “patriarchal and conservative”.
Others said they had witnessed discrimination against their non-Irish born family members and faced criticism for having seen their accent change. A similar number of people said they had struggled to cope with leaving various social circles, sometimes suffering on two sides as they lost friends in both Ireland and abroad.
-Physical and emotional wellbeing –
Groups which help returning emigrants have said that they are keen to put practical measures in place to benefit their physical and emotional wellbeing. Sarah Owen, the Irish Abroad Networking Officer with Crosscare, explained how her organisation was working with the Irish Government to try and improve the experiences of those returning to Ireland.
She said: “As we have been seeing for some time in our direct work, not all our emigrants make a planned return to Ireland.
“Some people come home in very difficult situations, with little income or support. For this reason we are liaising with Government over practical issues such as the application of the Habitual Residence Condition, and fast tracked PPS numbers for people coming home with children.
“We have also been in contact with the Department of Housing in relation to barriers for returning Irish emigrants accessing homeless supports.”
• The full Crosscare report can be viewed here: www.migrantproject.ie
Irish emigrants are facing a number of “obstacles” which could discourage their return to Ireland, an Oireachtas committee has heard.