I must emphasize the importance of our Expats. Their main contribution has been their effect on the Irish economy – for centuries they have sent a portion of their salary to their families in Ireland, making a huge contribution to the local economy. Likewise, their difficult decision to depart from Ireland resulted in less strain on the economy, as well as that of their families. Likewise, their cultural contribution can not be estimated where they have brought traditions in the arts, music, literature and even in their quirky ways of communicating to foreign shores.
Yet many of our expats continue to feel neglected by those at home, particularly at official level. This feeling is heightened by the natural results of emigration – an awareness of cultural identity in a foreign land. There are generations of families who may be second-, third- or fourth-generation Irish, yet their identity is sometimes as strong as when their forefathers left Ireland.
If this section of the website achieves something, I hope it will help to bring attention to our expats. I can’t predict whether they will achieve voting rights in Ireland (for example, in presidential elections), better pension information or simply acknowledgement and gratitude, but I would be happy if our government made some gesture towards their crucial contribution. It gives me great pleasure and honour to share the first part of Tony Ward’s story – it speaks for itself.
Peter Scott, 1 March 2006