The lack of an emigrant representative among the 100 strong members is an unfortunate reality that will lead to a perception abroad that once again the Irish government is making clear that the emigrant voice is not important, even though the emigrant dollar clearly is.
The convention is taking place against a backdrop of harsh economic times and increased efforts to bring the Irish abroad back into the fold. The emigrant vote would be a perfect place to start.
One of the issues to be discussed is the emigrant vote, and there was good news in an Irish Times poll this week, with 68 percent of those surveyed believing that emigrants should be allowed to vote in Irish presidential elections.
Only 17 percent believed that emigrants should be denied a vote. The finding is clearly a green light for the government and the constitutional convention to grab this issue.
Clearly there is a mindset in Ireland that the emigrant vote, under limited conditions, is a good step for this government. It will now depend on government willpower and determination to make it happen.
Currently, 115 countries worldwide allow their citizens abroad to vote. Even high emigration countries such as Mexico and Poland have the provision.
Read more news on Irish immigration here
Ireland badly needs to get in line with international consensus and provide its emigrants with a means of taking part in elections in the country of their citizenship.
Of the 115 countries, many impose restrictions on their citizens abroad. That is fair and reasonable. A time limit, such as five years after an emigrant has left home, would be a fair compromise.
Equally, presidential elections are far less likely to be impacted by emigrant votes than small rural constituencies in Dail (Irish Parliament) elections, which can swing on a handful of votes.
It is the symbolic rather than the actual impact that emigrants seek, the acknowledgement so often given when investment and funding is required that the diaspora is a vital part of the Irish identity.
Successive Irish governments have always maintained a healthy distance from the diaspora, never fully comprehending its priorities, its perceived foibles or its intent.
The result has been many missed opportunities to build the links that are so vital to Ireland at a time of maximum distress in the old country.
The Constitutional Convention is about managed change to ensure that all aspects of Irish identity are given full expression.
There is arguably no more important part of that equation than the Irish abroad, especially at a time when thousands are once again voting with their feet and leaving.
The barring of Tim Pat Coogan from coming to America for a book tour is disgraceful. He was refused a visa when he applied for one for his new book tour.
It is one in a clear pattern of a number of recent clueless decisions at the American Embassy in Dublin at the consular level that defy logic.
Ambassador Dan Rooney is clearly unable or unwilling to use his own discretion in some of these cases.
Ever since Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith played a stellar role in the Irish peace process by running her embassy with an iron fist, the functionaries have done their very best to keep incoming ambassadors powerless.
Never mind that Kennedy’s role stand suit like a beacon in the annals of American diplomacy in Ireland. An ambassador the bureaucrats cannot control is a dangerous person indeed it seems.
They did not succeed in the Bush era where excellent appointments ensured that many political issues were retained at the ambassadorial level.
That does not seem to be the case today. The Tim Pat Coogan case is a travesty but senior Irish government officials have told me it is by no means the only strange decision emanating from the embassy in recent times.
There seems to be a hardening attitude there to make it as difficult as possible for people to come to the U.S. from changes in how the J1 one year visa program is being administered to several high profile turndowns.
Blink and you might think you were back in the McCarthy era.
Put simply, there was no greater defender of America in Ireland for the past few decades than Tim Pat Coogan, especially at times when the anti-American sentiment there was at its highest.
His pro-American stances, both in his Irish Press newspaper and his writing about the power of the Irish Diaspora were major factors in keeping the American flag flying in Ireland.
He played a key behind the scenes role in the Irish peace process, especially in the early days when his contacts with Father Alex Reid, the unsung hero of the entire process, were vital.
He was deeply trusted by the Kennedy family and it was a famous meal in Dublin he had with Senator Edward Kennedy convincing him of the need for a visa for Gerry Adams that swayed the Massachusetts senator as well as helping bring President Clinton into the loop.
Visiting Irish Americans are always assured of a hearty welcome from Tim Pat and his backing for America and stance against the anti-American rhetoric so often spouted in Ireland made him this country’s prime defender.
Yet this is the 77-year-old man who the American Embassy just refused a visa to come to America too and humiliated him in the process?
Is there no institutional memory whatever at the embassy that can separate and remember a friend? No one who was able to realize the deep insult they had just inflicted on America’s greatest journalistic ally there?
Where was Ambassador Rooney in all this, as we know he was personally aware of the case?
There are so many questions but one undeniable fact. It will be a blot forever on the Dublin embassy that it humiliated one of its greatest supporters and Ireland’s leading historian by refusing a visa to launch his new book on the Irish famine.
Disgraceful is the word for it.