One of the biggest recipients of Irish government grant aid for organisations in this country has received a total of €9,330,782 over the past 27 years.
Irish in Britain, formerly the Federation of Irish Societies for much of its existence, was given the money by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under both the DION funding scheme and its successor the Emigrant Support Programme.
A total of 27 grants dating back to 1990 – the most recent being last year’s £388,000 out of a total UK pot of £4.5m – add up to over €9.3m (or £8,220,071.53).
For decades the organisation received the money because it represented itself as the umbrella body for Irish organisations in this country, however precise descriptions of what the organisation was actually for proved to be elusive.
Since last year the organisation – which this Saturday has its AGM in Birmingham – has had a new CEO who has been travelling the country to meet constituent organisations while carrying out root and branch reform, reducing staff numbers and overhead, and coming up with an answer to the question ‘Just what does Irish in Britain do and what is it for?
Mr Dalton and his staff have located from privately rented office space to the Irish Centre in Haringey. Before taking up the Irish in Britain post Brian Dalton, originally from Waterford, spent 20 years working leading health and social care Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and London local authorities providing services for people suffering from alcoholism and drug addictions and related problems.
In his first major address since taking over the leadership of the organisation Mr Dalton, writing for the Irish World, acknowledges that the days of relatively easy funding for all community organisations are over. Not only are resources scarcer but applying for them will require ever great technical expertise – and financial scrutiny. He says his organisation will provide that to member organisations and help them with governance, funding strategies, asset-based community development and – crucially for an organisation with a disproportionately high number of older and senior members – intergenerational working.
With that last point in mind the guest speaker at this week’s AGM will be the former CEO of the Beth Johnson Foundation, Alan Hatton-Yeo, a consultant on intergenerational working and relationships.
The Beth Johnson Foundation was established in 1972 with a bequest from the person after whom it is named with the goal of helping older people lead more independent lives.