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Leo Varadkar: Irish PM in waiting and his India connection

Leo said: "I know when my father traveled 5,000 miles from India to build a new home in Ireland, I doubt that he ever dreamed that one day his son would grow up to be its leader and despite his differences, his son would be judged by his actions not his identity."

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Leo Varadkar applauds on stage to make his acceptance speech at the count centre as he wins the Fine Gael parliamentary elections to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

By Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland’s governing Fine Gael party elected Leo Varadkar as its new leader on Friday, choosing the gay, 38-year-old son of an Indian immigrant to succeed Enda Kenny as prime minister in a striking sign of the country’s rapid social change.

Leo Varadkar arrives with his parents Ashok (R) and Miriam (L) Varadkar as it is announced that Varadkar won the Fine Gael parliamentary elections to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Varadkar overcame ministerial colleague Simon Coveney as expected, winning an overwhelming majority among the center-right party’s lawmakers who hope the straight-talking Dubliner can lead them to third successive term for the first time.

Leo Varadkar poses for pictures after winning the Fine Gael parliamentary elections to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party, in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Bar an unexpected development, Varadkar will be voted in as prime minister when parliament next sits on June 13 and become the once-staunchly Catholic country’s first openly gay premier and the youngest person ever to hold the office.

Leo Varadkar arrives at the count centre as it is announced that he won the Fine Gael parliamentary elections to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

“If my election today shows anything, it is that prejudice has no hold in this Republic,” Varadkar said to huge applause in a speech at Dublin’s Mansion House, where Ireland’s parliament first sat almost a century ago.

Leo Varadkar wins the Fine Gael parliamentary elections to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party, in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

“I know when my father traveled 5,000 miles to build a new home in Ireland, I doubt that he ever dreamed that one day his son would grow up to be its leader and despite his differences, his son would be judged by his actions not his identity.

“Every proud parent in Ireland today can dream big dreams for their children,” Varadkar said.

Leo Varadkar wins the Fine Gael parliamentary elections to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

His election marks another chapter in the social change that has swept through the country of 4.6 million people that only decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 but became the first country to adopt gay marriage via a popular vote in 2015.

Counting takes place during the Fine Gael party leader election to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party in Dublin, Ireland, June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

It also shows another face of modern-day Ireland. Varadkar’s father Ashok, who like his son is a doctor, was born in Mumbai in India. He met his wife Miriam, an Irish nurse, in England in the 1970s before moving to Ireland where Varadkar was born.

Counting takes place during the Fine Gael party leader election to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

The generational shift from Kenny, 66, who led the party for 15 years and has been prime minister since 2011, will likely be matched with Varadkar’s cabinet choices. Paschal Donohoe, 42, is expected to be promoted to finance minister, replacing the retiring Michael Noonan.

Varadkar’s opponents, who hope his blunt style will prove a liability rather than an asset to Fine Gael, were quick to claim that the current social protection minister — who recently led a campaign against “welfare cheats” — would move the government to the right.

Counting takes place during the Fine Gael party leader election to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

“Leo Varadkar is a Tory. Fine Gael will be dragged even further to right under his leadership and that can only mean further hardship for ordinary people,” Gerry Adams, president of the left-wing Sinn Fein opposition party said in a statement.

“CUT AND RUN?”

Supporters, on the other hand, excitedly compare their new leader to charismatic Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and new French President Emmanuel Macron, anticipating a rebound from last year’s disappointing election where they only returned to power as the senior party in a fragile minority government.

Counting takes place during the Fine Gael party leader election to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Fine Gael has already received a bounce, regaining its standing as the most popular party in most opinion polls and Varadkar has pledged to hit the ground running with promises of increased infrastructure spending and further income tax cuts.

However, despite inheriting the fastest-growing economy in Europe, he will have less room to boost spending and cut taxes in his first budget than Kenny enjoyed in each of his last two as Ireland seeks its first balanced budget in a decade.

He will also face the diplomatic and economic challenge of Brexit, which is set to impact neighboring Ireland more than any other European Union country due to its close trading links with Britain and land border with British-run Northern Ireland.

The constraints of minority rule, where Fine Gael relies on the backing of rival Fianna Fail on key votes, could also act as a brake on his ambitions, and while Varadkar has ruled out an early election, analysts are alive to the possibility.

A woman has a sticker supporting candidate Leo Varadkar on her handbag as counting takes place during the Fine Gael party leader election to replace Prime Minister of Ireland (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny as leader of the party in Dublin, Ireland June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

“Having Leo Varadkar at the helm in the next election probably sets Fine Gael up better than under Enda Kenny, I think that’s a safe bet but everyone watching Irish politics knows this is to all extents and purposes a zombie government,” said David Farrell, politics professor at University College Dublin.

“I think the fact that he will be so tightly constrained would suggest that on balance going for an early election may be best for him. Cut and run during a honeymoon, on his terms, might be the way to go.”

(Writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Helen Popper)

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Recent Trends among the Indian Diaspora and its Increasing Significance

As the Indian diaspora is increasingly organizing itself in the host countries by accumulating the resources, it may have potential impact on the economic, social and political landscape in India.

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Indian Diaspora organizing community identity in the host country

 

What is Indian Diaspora:

The Indian diaspora is a generic term representing the people who migrated from the Indian territories to the other parts of the world. It includes the descendants of these groups. Today, over twenty million Indians which include Non Resident Indians and People of Indian Origin are residing outside the Indian territory as Indian diaspora. According to a UN survey report of 2015, India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world. In 2005, Indians formed the world’s third largest diaspora. The Indians who settled overseas in 1960s for more developed countries such as US, UK, Canada, Australia and Western Europe formulate the category of the New Diaspora.

What are the popular host countries for the Indian Diaspora:

The 2010 estimates of Census data of US, UK and Canada suggest that Indian diaspora constitutes three million people in US, 1.5 million people in the United Kingdom and one million in Canada. Indians are the fourth largest immigrant group in the United States. Also, five million emigrants from India reside in the Gulf region at present.

The History of Indian Diaspora:

A brief overview of the history of Indian diaspora suggests that the first group of Indians immigrated to Eastern Europe in the 1st century AD from Rajasthan during the reign of Kanishka. Yet another evidence of migration was witnessed in 500 AD when a group immigrated to Southeast Asia as the Cholas extended their empire to Indonesia and Malaysia thereby spreading the Indian culture in these states. Thus the early evidences of diaspora were found during ancient times. The medieval period witnessed the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism during the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms. Mughals took Indians as traders, scholars, artists, musicians and emissaries to the other parts of the country.

Old Diaspora:

The first wave of the Modern Indian Diaspora, also called the Old Diaspora, began in the early 19th century and continued until the end of the British rule. The Dutch and French colonizers followed the suit. Indians were sent in large numbers to become the bonded labourers for sugar and rubber plantation in their colonies.

Indians in Caribbean, Africa and Asia:

By the end of World War 1, there were 1.5 million Indian labourers in the colonies in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. At present, around 60% of Indian diaspora is constituted of this Old Diaspora.

Impact of Immigration policies on Migration from India:

After the Indian independence, a large number of unskilled and some skilled Punjabi male Sikhs migrated to UK from India due to favorable immigration policies in the United Kingdom. Similarly, 1990s onwards, due to software boom and its rising economy, H-1B was introduced in the US immigration policy that allowed the entry of highly skilled IT specialists, doctors, scientists and engineers in the US. Further, 1970s witnessed oil boom in the Middle East that led to significant growth of Indian diaspora in the Gulf region.

While the low skilled and semi skilled workers are moving to the Gulf region for better economic opportunities, highly skilled labour is moving from India to US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Has Indian Diaspora started impacting the economies and societies:

With the growing rate of international migration since the beginning of millennia, there is a significant impact of diaspora on the economies and societies of the world. In recent years, diaspora is influencing the economic, political and cultural affairs in their homeland. It is so because the influence of the diaspora communities increases as they organize themselves and accumulate resources in their host countries for several years. The mobilized diaspora are now influencing the affairs of the homeland countries. A common form of exchange is the financial remittances provided to the relatives by the diaspora community. Overseas family networks of the political elites in India are shaping the political landscape as well. Culturally, diaspora is influencing the music and literature trends in India as the content is consciously structured to cater to the tastes of the diaspora.

What actions have been taken by the government of India to tap the potential of Indian Diaspora:

The first Pravasi Bhartiya Divas was organized in 2003 by the Government of India to expand and reshape the state of India’s economy by the use of the potential human capital which the Indian diaspora reflects. Clearly, Indian diaspora has a larger role to play in the Indian economy over the coming years as the efforts to mobilize them increase in the homeland.

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‘Parent by Choice for Choice’ : Thousands Join Protests Against Ireland’s Abortion Laws

This year's march against abortion laws was more significant than ever given the latest confirmation that there will be a referendum on abortion next year

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Thousands gathered to protest against Ireland's abortion laws holding placards saying "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries" and "Parent by choice for choice (representational image) Wikimedia

Dublin, September 1, 2017 : Thousands of people staged a massive protest in Dublin, calling for an end to Ireland’s strict abortion laws, the media reported.

Campaigners took part in the March for Choice in the capital’s city centre on Saturday, chanting: “Hey, hey Leo (Prime Minister Leo Varadkar), the eighth amendment has got to go” and carrying banners which read: “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries” and “Parent by choice for choice”, reports the Guardian.

This year’s march against abortion laws, the sixth in a series of annual events, was more significant than ever given the latest confirmation that there will be a referendum on abortion next year.

The Irish government recently set a potential timescale of early 2018 for the referendum on the eighth amendment, the section of Ireland’s constitution imposing tight legal restrictions on terminations.

ALSO READ Anti-abortion Activists and supporters of a Woman’s right choose staged demonstrations in US

The amendment, which was voted into the constitution by referendum in 1983, affords equal rights to unborn babies and pregnant women and gives foetuses the right to life by law, the Guardian reported.

Terminations are only permitted when the life of the mother is at risk, and the maximum penalty for having an illegal abortion in Ireland is 14 years in prison.

Thousands of Irish women travel to the British mainland each year to have a legal termination.

ALSO READ DIY abortions: To do or not to do?

Anti-abortion activists staged counter events in the city and across Ireland to warn against the relaxation of the current law reports the BBC.

A pro-choice rally was also staged outside the Irish embassy in London on Saturday, with campaigners highlighting the numbers of Irish women who have traveled to the UK for an abortion in the last three decades.  (IANS)

 

 

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Diwali Preparations Grow in US, from Disney to Times Square

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Diyas adorn every corner of the house on the celebration day of Diwali. pixabay

The holiday of Diwali in the US is starting to light up mainstream America. Diwali, a festival of lights celebrated by Indians all over the world, has long been observed in immigrant communities around the U.S.

But now public celebrations of the holiday are starting to pop up in places ranging from Disneyland and Times Square to parks and museums.

The Times Square event is the brainchild of Neeta Bhasin, who says that while many Indian immigrants have found great success in the U.S., “still people don’t know much about India. I felt it’s about time that we should take India to mainstream America and showcase India’s rich culture, heritage, arts and diversity to the world. And I couldn’t find a better place than the center of the universe: Times Square.”

Places in America where Diwali Celebrations will take place.

Bhasin, who came to the United States from India 40 years ago, is president of ASB Communications, the marketing firm behind Diwali at Times Square. The event, now in its fourth year, has drawn tens of thousands of people in the past. It’s scheduled for Oct. 7, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., with dance performances, Bollywood singers, a bazaar of food, saris and other goods, and a lighting ceremony.

While Diwali celebrations are held throughout the fall, the holiday’s actual date is Oct. 19. Also called Deepavali, it’s an autumn harvest festival held just before the Hindu new year. Celebrations include lighting oil lamp called diyas and candles to symbolize “a victory of knowledge over ignorance, light over darkness, good over evil,” said Bhasin.

The Diwali celebration at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California, includes performances of traditional Indian dances and a Bollywood dance party for guests. It’s part of a festival of holidays at the theme park reflecting cultural traditions from around the world. The Disney festival begins Nov. 10 and runs through Jan. 7.

San Antonio, Texas, has one of the nation’s largest city-sponsored celebrations of Diwali, drawing more than 15,000 people each year. The 2017 event, scheduled for Nov. 4 at La Villita, a historic arts village, will be its ninth annual Diwali celebration with Indian dance, entertainment, food, crafts, fireworks and the release of lighted candles into the San Antonio River along the city’s River Walk.

New York City’s Rubin Museum will mark Diwali with an overnight Ragas Live Festival featuring more than 50 Indian classical musicians performing amid the museum’s collection of sacred Himalayan art. The event begins Oct. 21 at 10 a.m. and continues all day and night through Oct. 22 at 10 a.m. Chai and mango lassis will be served, visitors will have access to all the galleries and pop-up events like meditation and sunrise prayer will be offered. Special tickets will be sold for the opportunity to sleep beneath the artwork.

Other places hosting Diwali celebrations include Cary, North Carolina, in Regency Park, Oct. 14; Flushing Town Hall, Queens, New York, Oct. 29; the Seattle Center, Oct. 21; the Dulles Expo center in Chantilly, Virginia, Oct. 7-8; and Memorial Park in Cupertino, California, Sept. 30. In Columbus, Ohio, the Ohio History Center is hosting a photo exhibit about the city’s fast-growing population of immigrants from Nepal, Bhutan and India, with a Diwali event Oct. 8.

Bhasin said Diwali’s message is particularly timely now. “It is extremely important to be together and showcase to the world, not only Indians, but the entire immigrant community, to be together with Americans and to show the world we are one, we are all the same human beings,” she said.(VOA)