Tuesday 21 May 2019

Diaspora strategy key to progress

Ciara Galvin

There are 960,000 people worldwide with claims of ties to Sligo and now Sligo County Council are reaching out to them via the launch of its Diaspora Strategy.

Launched at City Hall recently, the Strategy’s aims are to connect with the diaspora letting them know the county is not only a place to live, but also a place to invest, and visit.

A large attendance across various agencies and organisations heard from stakeholders of the strategy about the council’s vision to harness the diaspora in terms of further progressing the county.

The culmination of two years’ work, the strategy was formed through the cooperation with neighbouring counties, Leitrim, Roscommon and Longford.

Margaret McConnell outlined that this approach could be done as no other authority is in competition when it came to diaspora. “We all have our own,” she noted.

“It’s about understanding how we can help them and to keep in touch.”

Cathaoirleach Martin Baker told those in attendance it was a privilege to launch the plan.

“By implementing this strategy we’ll strengthen those connections, keeping Sligo roots alive. Though our wish is some day our diaspora will return, this cannot be in many cases but we do hope they will visit and invest.

Cllr Baker said setting out a clear way for the future of reconnecting with the diaspora was ‘integral’ in order to develop the county.

CEO of Sligo County Council, Ciaran Hayes, noted that whether someone is born in Ireland and exiled, or born somewhere else, they have ties to the country and their native county.

He also noted that while emigration mirrored economic cycles, now, those leaving Ireland have the benefit of better education than their forefathers.

“Travel broadens the mind and to return and add that value back home is invaluable. Travelling now is almost a right of passage The CEO sees the strategy as further strengthening connections with Sligo people abroad.

“Historically we’ve looked at what our diaspora can do for us, no we’re also seeing what we can do for our diaspora,” said Mr Hayes.

He also spoke about possibilities for investment in the county.

“There are opportunities there for diaspora investment and it works both ways, even as they return home, they’re returning home to a very different Sligo. A county where there has been a lot of positive announcements in terms of jobs and infrastructure.”

With reference to 450,000 people visiting Sligo during the county’s hosting of Fleadh Ceol na Eireann, the power of Irish music among the diaspora was also discussed at the launch.

Martin Enright, the chair of Ceoltas outlined that the organisation has 36,000 members worldwide among 400 branches, including Asia, the USA, and South America. He added that the links formed across the world through Irish music were ‘amazing’.

Speaking about the power of sport in connecting Sligo’s diaspora, Brendan Leonard of Sligo County Board detailed how now more than ever GAA was helping to connect, with Sligo GAA playing in New York two years ago.

Anecdotally, Mr Leonard outlined how the Sligo diaspora had invested and helped out, noting his own club, Tourlestrane benefitted from the interest of Sligo natives and how competitions like Feile are growing year on year constantly creating links with the county and further afield.

Sligo Champion