JUST two years after he was elected as a Labour Councillor in London, Letterkenny man Troy Gallagher has been elected as the party’s Irish Community Liaison Officer (ICLO).
Speaking to the Donegal News this week, Cllr Gallagher explained how he hopes the new role will enable him to be the first point of contact for the growing number of Irish people emigrating to England.
While he has been on the executive of the Labour Party Irish Society for the last two or so years, this is the first time he has held the role of ICLO.
“My understanding of the role is to be the link between the LPIS and the Irish diaspora in general,” he said. “That includes all the partners: The Irish centres, the Federation of Irish Societies and also linking up with key players within the Irish community both at home and here in Britain.”
Cllr Gallagher, explained that he hopes to create greater awareness of the role, particularly given the increasing number of young Irish people who are again emigrating to England in search of work. He explained: “I’m really keen to try and establish some sort of process from when emigrants come over that they can contact an Irish councillor. Most people go towards labour because it has traditionally been the party that has attracted Irish emigrants, but there’s a network of Irish councillors.”
He explained that when an Irish emigrant comes over to London they find themselves in the middle of a big city and find that “all the myths are gone”.
He maintained there should be a system whereby they can link with their peers in order to get advice on staring out or information on social housing and welfare. “I see councillors as being the main link for anyone as they arrive.”
He is also quick to draw a distinction between the members of the Irish community who came over in the 1950s and 60s to work predominantly blue collar jobs and the more recent emigrants who are arriving with a stronger skill and academic base.
“It’s understanding both scopes and both remits of both communities… but it’s also to be aware that where there’s commonalties there are also cultural differences between the age groups.”
“This dichotomy has long been recognised. The risk is that it can lead to complacency regarding younger emigrants. Because they are better educated doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to land on their feet in the UK. I’m not complacent but what I do think is that we need a more joined up approach as opposed to the what has happened in the past.
He continued: “We’ve got one in 10 that are homeless, that are educated, that end up on the streets and that’s my whole point about having that support system and those welfare links advertised within each borough,” he says, adding that Irish people should be able to go to their local councillor who will then direct them towards an Irish centre, society or councillor.
“From that it’s almost like a spider web. Irrespective of where they are no person should be sleeping rough or no person should be thinking where am I, how do I get through this?”
Last year Cllr Gallagher and other Irish councillors met with President Michael D Higgins, prior to his election when he was on a trip to meet the Irish diaspora in London.
He concluded: “Mr Higgins spoke about how we can play our part in ‘reshaping and contributing to a modern new Ireland’ and that is something I will be working on with Cllr Sally Mulready (former Chair of LPIS and long-standing hackney councillor) who was appointed by the President to the Council of State.”