Thursday 22 March 2018

Varadkar's plan for 'Irish Ellis Island' to honour diaspora is still on hold

Louise McBride

Louise McBride

MOVES made by Transport and Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar to set up an Irish 'Ellis Island' have come to a standstill.

In November 2011, the Government gave a commitment to support a diaspora centre or museum, but 18 months on the project has still not got the green light.

If it goes ahead, the State-backed centre would be similar to Ellis Island in New York – albeit one where Irish emigrants could trace their Irish roots, rather then where they emigrated to.

About a year and a half ago, Failte Ireland started to examine how and where a diaspora centre could be built in Ireland, after being requested to do so by Mr Varadkar.

Although Failte Ireland has completed its study and sent the report to Mr Varadkar, the minister has still not decided if and when the centre will go ahead.

"The minister is currently considering the report and no decision has been taken on the next course of action," said a spokesman for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

"The centre was never a 'done deal'. It was never going to be possible for the State to fund the construction on its own, so it's a question of what sort of centre is possible and whether a partner can be found who is interested in financing the project.

"The minister is likely to make a recommendation in the autumn. The Government is keen to develop a diaspora centre if and when funding becomes available."

The spokesman added that a number of locations around Ireland, including Cobh and Dun Laoghaire, had proposed setting up their own diaspora centres. These initiatives are separate to the Failte Ireland study commissioned by Mr Varadkar.

"Leo has floated the possibility of running a competition to see which proposed diaspora centre has the best concept and can be funded through existing resources, philanthropy or private enterprise," said the spokesman.

Sunday Independent

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