Irish Bishop Conference News

Irish Bishop Conference News

Irish Bishop Conference News

Patrick’s College Maynooth, Co. Kildare



Bishop John Kirby’s address at the Irish launch of Welcoming the Stranger – Irish Migrant Welfare in Britain since 1957 by Patricia Kennedy _ July 2, 2015

St Laurence’s, DIT Campus, Grangegorman, Dublin

Welcoming the Stranger is not merely a book about the past.  It speaks also to the present and points us to the future.   It highlights the importance of supporting our emigrants and providing assistance to them when in difficulty.

If evidence of this were needed, we have only to remind ourselves of the recent and unimaginable suffering of the families and friends of those who perished and were injured in the awful tragedy in Berkeley, California. It is my fervent hope that the pain they continue to endure may be salved – even slightly – by the solidarity, support and prayers of the global Irish community.  To this end I encourage everyone to continue to remember in their prayers those who have died and those who were injured in Berkeley and their families.

I also wish to commend all those who have provided comfort and support to the families, friends, fellow J1 students and indeed, anyone, affected by this tragic event.  The Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre in San Francisco has been at the forefront in providing support and practical assistance, in conjunction with the Irish Consulate, Aer Lingus and many others. The importance of such pastoral centres – in times of crisis and otherwise – cannot be overstated.  On my own behalf, and on behalf of the bishops of Ireland, I wish this evening to sincerely thank Mr Jimmy Deenihan, TD, Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Mr Charlie Flanagan, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and their staff for the tremendous support provided to the families and friends of the bereaved and injured.  The work undertaken in doing so has been nothing short of heroic. It epitomises a true pastoral outreach and all that is best in who we are as Irish people.

Similarly, the importance of and the generosity from, our diaspora, was once again made manifest in Berkeley.  One could not but be struck by the scenes of hundreds of young people holding a prayerful vigil for their friends and fellow J1 students. When they prayed – we prayed with them. Let us continue to do so and remember them now in a quiet moment of prayerful silence. Let us also remember Lorna Carty and Larry and Martina Hayes and their families, and all those who lost their lives or were injured in last Friday’s terrorist attack in Tunisia.

Conor, thank you for your introduction this evening and Professor Norton, thank you for your kind words of welcome, I express my gratitude to you in your role as President of DIT for hosting this event.  I thank too Father Alan Hilliard, Chaplain, DIT and Board member of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Council for Emigrants, Ms Suzanne Greene and the staff of DIT for making us feel so welcome.

I also wish to acknowledge the presence of Minister Deenihan and who is our keynote speaker this evening.

The purpose of our gathering is to launch this excellent publication by Dr Patricia Kennedy entitled Welcoming the Stranger – Irish Migrant Welfare in Britain since 1957.  I express my appreciation to the Irish Academic Press for recognising the value of this work and for agreeing to publish it.  Your role in this project is testament to the scholarly tone of this book, both in terms of its research and the presentation of its findings.

On my own behalf and on behalf of the Bishops’ Council for Emigrants, I wish to remember especially the Irish Chaplaincy in Britain, the staff, volunteers, clergy and religious, past and present, for their work as pastoral leaders, whilst mostly going unheralded, gives witness to the core mission of the Gospel, that is, to love God and to love our neighbour.

I express my admiration and gratitude in a very special way to you Dr Kennedy for this important and significant research and this excellent publication.  Some may find it hard to believe that other than letting you free to delve into the archives and responding to requests for interviews we, the Irish bishops, had no input into this work.

I am inspired and humbled by its content.  Before reading Welcoming the Stranger I was largely unaware of the extent of the selflessness and the commitment of so many lay people, religious sisters, and clergy in this mission to our Irish emigrants in Britain for over half a century.  I am also greatly inspired by the leadership and vision of so many on both sides of the Irish Sea who saw the need for a pastoral response and despite enormous obstacles put a sound structure in place to serve those in need.  A warm word of acknowledgement to those priests from the Archdiocese of Dublin, especially under Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, who served in the Irish Chaplaincy in the decades following its establishment in 1957.

Rather than giving you a summary of the book or indeed my thoughts on how emigration has impacted on my own part of the country in East Galway, I want to pay tribute to this work in a different way.   Welcoming the Stranger is not merely a book about the past.  It speaks also to the present and points us to the future.   It highlights the importance of supporting our emigrants and providing assistance to them when in difficulty.

There are four key areas in Welcoming the Stranger that I would like to highlight this evening which show what this research has to offer migration today.  By doing this, I will illustrate that Dr Kennedy’s work has a reach that goes beyond the story of the migration of Irish people to Britain; this work has a global significance.

Firstly, when one looks at the work undertaken on behalf of Irish prisoners in the campaign to free those wrongly imprisoned, and separately at the achievements of the Task Force on Emigration, it is clear that in order to achieve significant outcomes for those living overseas, connection with the homeland is vital.  By homeland, I do not mean the institutions of Ireland; I mean the emigrant has to occupy a space in the heart of the people of Ireland.  The lesson from this book is that the more isolated emigrant or diaspora groups become; the less effective they are on behalf of those they serve.  New energy and fresh imagination has to be brought to bear on the way that Irish people abroad relate to their homeland for the good of both.  I offer my support and encouragement – especially to you Minister Deenihan, who wrote the foreword to Welcoming the Stranger – as Ireland seeks to engage with those living abroad.

Secondly, one often hears reports of the ‘ghettoisation’ of emigrant communities. Those looking in from the outside can often accuse those who work with migrants of creating ‘ghettos’. This research challenges those who hold this view. Whether it is in the work of housing, visiting hotels, or celebrating the sacraments, the aim of the emigrant chaplains was always to help Irish emigrants integrate into their new home.  As societies are becoming more diverse, this research undoubtedly shows that one can never underestimate the significance and importance of any assistance that is given to newly arrived individuals and communities for the long term well-being and cohesiveness of the society that they move to.


Thirdly, this book shows us that policy which endures starts with the people it serves.  We can see from many current crises that no amount of policy will deter people from migrating.  Whether policy seeks to curtail or discourage, to invite or integrate, it will never be successful unless it addresses the needs of those who are migrating.  The mind-set of policy-makers must include the lives of migrants otherwise policy won’t work and will create backlogs, illegality and unrest.  Migrants in some cases will take advantage of policy that works in their favour but they will always find a way around policy that presents a barrier to their ultimate goal.

Fourthly, whilst Irish migrants were not without stigma in some of their host communities, we are fortunate that the Irish who travelled to Britain didn’t have to worry about visas or quotas.  They didn’t have to declare as refugees and asylum seekers though many were economic refugees and some may have fled persecution of one form or another.  The freedom of movement between Ireland and Britain meant that people could concentrate on work, housing, family and security.  When work dried up our migrants moved on, some to different cities throughout Britain, others became part of a second wave of emigration to other countries.

Welcoming the Stranger is filled with stories of giants, people who contributed hugely to the welfare of our emigrants at a time when there was little interest from official Ireland.   I am impressed by the roles of Nuala Kelly,  Bishop Éamonn Casey and Fathers Paul Byrne and Bobby Gilmore.  The work of the religious congregations of the Columbans and the Oblates, as well as the Legion of Mary, shine out in the text.  The application of Catholic social teaching underpinned many of their campaigns.  Issues of housing, miscarriages of justice and the care of members of the Travelling community were – and still are – challenging, but especially so during the climate of the Troubles.  The work of many religious sisters, the development of the Irish Chaplaincy and the support offered in difficult times, the courageous human rights campaigning of solicitor Gareth Peirce, and of barrister Michael Mansfield, all feature in this book.

On a different note, I took particular delight in the account of the Huddersfield Gaeltacht.  Many years ago, I read the original Irish version of Dialann Deoraí by Dónall MacAmhlaigh.  It was later translated into English as An Irish Navvy and gives an extraordinary vivid picture of an Irish navvy’s life in the England of the 1950s.  Workless days, the hardships of work camps, lonesome partings after trips home, periods of intense isolation and occasional bitterness were all part of the picture.  The section on Huddersfield reflects much of that situation.

As many countries today become preoccupied with negative depictions of immigration there is merit in pondering how the unrestricted movement of people between Britain and Ireland has, for the most part, benefited these islands.  There were many hazards for our people who emigrated across the Irish Sea, but that freedom of movement opened wonderful opportunities for those who took the risk.  Today it would be remiss of us not to think of those who travel across the Mediterranean Sea and in doing so put their lives in danger.  Though emigration should never be justified as a tool of economic policy, one can only be grateful for the freedom of movement that exists between Britain and Ireland, and wonder what can policy-makers learn in this regard in the wake of ongoing human tragedies off the coast of Southern Europe?

We should learn from the problems associated with migration that our people faced in the past.  Being a son of migrants, Pope Francis is very sensitive to their needs.  In April the Pope said, “Migration is linked to hunger and lack of work.  People are being discarded and forced to seek employment elsewhere.”  More recently, following one of the many incidents of mass drowning of migrants in the Mediterranean, he said:

“A boat full of migrants capsized last night about one hundred kilometres off the Libyan coast, and hundreds are feared dead.  I express my deepest sorrow in the face of this tragedy and I assure my thoughts and prayers to those still missing and to their families.  I address an urgent appeal that the international community will act with decision and promptness to avoid any similar tragedy from happening again.  These are men and women like us, our brothers and sisters seeking a better life, starving, persecuted, wounded, and exploited victims of war; they are seeking a better life.  They were seeking happiness.”

This evening, I have shared with you four areas which illustrate that the chaplaincy service to Irish emigrants in Britain is a model of best practice in welcoming the stranger.  Dr Kennedy’s publication provides us with many more inspiring examples that one could draw on this evening.  It highlights the importance of: supporting emigrants maintaining contact with their homeland; the importance of providing assistance to new emigrants; placing people at the heart of migrant policy; and, encouraging the work of integration.

Finally, while it is heartening that the profile of the Irish emigrant has utterly changed when compared with earlier generations, today the Irish Chaplaincy’s three main pastoral activities – working with Irish prisoners, Irish Travellers, and with the elderly Irish who are often alone – are hugely demanding and expensive.  May I appeal to your Christian spirit and ask those of us who can, to reflect on how we might better share our talents, or resources, or both, for the good of those who are less fortunate than ourselves.

Congratulations to you, Dr Kennedy, for this fine work and thank you for the professional, courteous and committed manner in which you went about the project.  Thank you also for helping us to inform the present and the future through this prolific study of the past.

May God bless you all.

+ John Kirby


Statement by Archbishop Eamon Martin on the deaths of Irish students in Berkeley, California_ June 2015

 Like many others, I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear the reports of the tragic deaths of five Irish students earlier today in Berkeley, California.  This devastating news will be felt by Irish people everywhere, and particularly by those who have family and friends abroad. I pray that the eight injured students will fully recover from this terrible accident.

The death of a child or young person is the worst news that a parent can receive. At this profoundly painful time I pray for those who have died, and ask also for prayerful support for their grieving families, fellow students and loved ones.

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm 00353 (0) 87 310 4444


Bishop Kirby welcomes Presidents Obama’s decision on behalf of the ‘undocumented’ Irish living in the USA Bishop Kirby said “I welcome President Obama’s change in the deportation system.  The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions serve to underline the complexity of the problems surrounding migration.” Bishop Kirby continued, “Drawing from our pastoral experience, Irish bishops are acutely aware of the human impact on families when relatives are unable to travel to Ireland to see their loved ones, and in particular to visit their aging parents.  Our undocumented emigrants have faced great personal turmoil and pain as they have been prevented from participating in key moments of family life back home such as baptisms, marriages and when a loved one is seriously ill or has died.  Their family life existence in the United States has similarly been curtailed by being placed under the daily stress of constant fear of arrest and deportation.  The quality of life of the children of our undocumented living in the US has been particularly compromised in this regard. “The care for migrants/people on the move is given a particular significance by Pope Francis in his message for ‘World Day for Migrants and Refugees’ for 18 January next when he says, ‘It is necessary to respond to the globalization of migration with the globalization of charity and cooperation, in such a way as to make the conditions of migrants more humane.’ “I wish to express my gratitude to the members of the Irish Apostolate USA who are the active arm of the Bishops’ Council for Emigrants in the United States.  The Irish Apostolate has worked tirelessly on behalf of our undocumented.  The staff offer pastoral care for the undocumented on a daily basis, and also advocate tirelessly on their behalf.  At this time I wish to thank successive Irish governments for their support over many years on this issue and emigrant support more generally,” Bishop Kirby said.


Bishops of Ireland Say St. Patrick’s Day Is Time to Pray for Migrants

Note This Year’s Feast Will Be Celebrated Amid Economic Recession

DUBLIN, March 16, 2014 ( – The Bishops of Ireland have published the following message for the Solemnity of Saint Patrick 2014. * * * We pray through the intercession of our national patron, St Patrick, for the faith and well-being of the people of Ireland. Saint Patrick was called to serve and bring God to a people far from his homeland.  As Saint Patrick’s Day is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics in Ireland, the best way to honour him is to attend Mass. In 2014 we celebrate our national Saint’s day in the midst of an ongoing economic recession which has resulted in domestic heartbreak throughout Ireland for many individuals and families due to the pressure of unemployment and emigration.  As the plight of Patrick, himself a migrant, has been faced by many Irish people who have struggled to live and integrate into new cultures, we encourage all the faithful to pray for migrants at home and abroad as many face challenges arising from displacement and poverty. Guímíd beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig ar mhuintir uile na hÉireann. Tá muid ag cuimhniú go h-áirithe ortha siúd uile atá anois ina ndeoraithe i bhfad ó bhaile. Go raibh creideamh Chríostaí Phádraig Naofa mar thaca agus mar shólás acu i gcónaí. Guímíd freisin, tré impí Phádraig naofa,  ar son na ndaoine sin ar fad atá tagtha isteach sa tír seo le blianta beaga anuas ag iarraidh tearmann, dídean agus saol nua: go mba fial flathúil an fháilte a bheas le brath acu i gcónái inár measc. Féachfaidh muid chuige sin, mar chlann Dé agus muintir Naomh Pádraig!” [We pray the blessings of the feast of Patrick on all the people of Ireland. We think especially of all our people who are exiles far from home: may the Christian faith of Patrick be their support and comfort always. We pray also through the intercession of Saint Patrick, for the many people who have come into this country in recent years seeking shelter, asylum and a new life: may the welcome amongst us they receive be generous; let us see to that, as people of God and of Saint Patrick.]  The Irish Bishops Conference is the official gathering of the Roman Catholic Bishops in Ireland. The Irish Bishops meet several times a year in Maynooth, County Kildare, the location of St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Ireland’s national Roman Catholic Seminary. While each bishop is autonomous in his own diocese, meetings of the Conference give bishops a chance to discuss issues of mutual concern, or issues of national policy.

The Archbishop of Armagh as Primate of All Ireland, is the chairperson of the Irish Bishop’s Conference. The current Archbishop is HIs Eminence Sean Brady.

The Catholic Communications Office is an Agency of the Irish Bishops Conference that handles all news events and press releases. Contact Details: Catholic Communications Office, Irish Bishops’ Conference St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co. Kildare Tel: +353 1 505 3000    Fax: +353 1 601 6413 E-mail: Director: Mr. Martin Long (Mobile: +353 86 172 7678)