Recovering Ireland appeals for diaspora to come home

DUBLIN (AFP) - Ireland's government has launched a new programme called "Global Irish" designed to attract thousands of emigrants who left during the financial crisis to return, a government minister said on Wednesday.

The new policy includes support services for Irish emigrants who have returned and practical information about moving back.

"Some of these people left hoping to return to Ireland if the economy got better and there were jobs available for them," Ireland's Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan told AFP.

"We hope to create the environment and the economic climate to give them an incentive to come back," he said, hinting at possible tax reform.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Tuesday appealed to emigrants to return home.

"Emigration has a devastating impact on our economy as we lose the input of talent and energy. We need these people at home. And we will welcome them," he said.

An estimated 240,000 Irish citizens left Ireland since the onset of the crisis in 2008 that ravaged the Irish economy, with most leaving to find work abroad.

In the past 15 months, Ireland has exited its bailout programme and its economy is forecast to be Europe's fastest-growing this year.

"I believe that, after seven years of emigration, 2016 will be the year when the number of our people coming home, will be greater than the numbers who leave," Mr Kenny said.

A "Global Irish Civic Forum" will be held in June.

Emigration has long been an enduring facet of Irish life, stemming from the Great Famine in the 1840s when over one million left to escape starvation.

Emigration of young people continued unabated up until the 1990s when Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy became one of the world's fastest-growing.

Since 2008, widespread emigration has returned as unemployment soared and tax hikes and spending cuts were implemented.

Dublin has forecast full employment (2.1 million people in employment) by 2018 but the unemployment rate in February stood at 10.1 per cent.

The latest statistics for the year ending April 2014 show 40,700 Irish people left Ireland in the previous 12 months.

Over the same period, 11,600 Irish emigrants returned - the lowest return rate since records on this began in 1996.