Thursday, December 18, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Irish illegals issue more urgent than ever - O'Dowd

(From the Irish Times, October 11, 2008) DEAGLAN DE BREADUN, Political Correspondent

SIGNIFICANT ILLEGAL immigration of Irish people to the US has begun again, making it even more critical that a long-term solution be found to the problem, founder-member of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform Niall O'Dowd said last night.

Speaking in Dún Chaoin, Co Kerry, at the opening of the Blasket Island Foundation seminar on emigration, he said: "The Irish immigrant centres all over the US are reporting a significant surge . . . and the anecdotal evidence in Irish neighbourhoods is backing that up. We are particularly seeing the traditional type of Irish emigrant - construction workers, waitresses - who are the first to experience the effects of the Irish economic downturn.

"We already have tens of thousands of undocumented whom we are seeking to help," he added.
Mr O'Dowd said immigration reform was a divisive issue and had taken a back seat in the US election. "Given the current economic emergency it is hard to see McCain or Obama giving the issue of immigration reform any major priority if elected," he said.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

This is just the beginning....

"Speaking on RTÉ radio last week, Louisburgh native, Ciarán Staunton, who is Deputy Chairperson of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) in America, said Senator McCain had reiterated his interest in resolving the issue of the undocumented in a meeting with the ILIR, at which he said that, if elected, his number one priority during his first year would be to get immigration reform.
“We’ve had great access to Senator McCain,” Mr Staunton said. “Every event we’ve invited him to over the past two years, both in Washington and in the Bronx, he has shown up at. I spent half an hour talking with him about the issue of the undocumented Irish and other Irish-American issues and he didn’t need notes or staff. He gets the issue, which is in contrast to his opponent. We have, as of yet, been unable to get Barack Obama to turn up to any of our events.”
Ciarán Staunton added that the ILIR do not endorse candidates, ‘but as of now there is certainly only one who has shown an interest’."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Irish Government grants Irish immigrant groups $1.5m

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has announced grants of more than $1.5m for Irish immigration organisations in the USA.

The grants will go to 16 frontline Irish immigration organisations which provide support and other services to Irish emigrants. The US$1,518,500 (€1,030,500) announced today brings to US$3,163,500 the total amout granted this year to Irish immigration and community organisations in the US.

Speaking after a meeting with the community organisations in New York, the Minister said:
"The Irish immigration organisations in the US provide an invaluable service to the Irish communities there and I am delighted that we are in position once again this year to make a significant financial contribution to enable them to continue that work."

"Irish emigrant communities have over the years contributed in different ways to the economic well-being of this country. It is important now that we continue to provide financial support to organisations that work with those Irish communities in the US and elsewhere."

"The allocations that I am announcing today are to organisations that are to the forefront in providing essential frontline services to Irish communities across the US, particularly to the elderly and those in need. They also work with the undocumented Irish, whose status remains an issue of the highest priority for the Government and which I have raised with key US
legislators in the course of my visit.”


Sunday, September 21, 2008

US to issue 20,000 one-year work visas

This a great step forward toward what we've all been hoping will happen. The doors have been opened and discussions are underway. Finally the unique Irish American relationship is being recognised and the visa issue as a whole is being discussed.

It seems that our new Toaiseach is holding true to his word of holding "visas and immigration' as priorities during his time in office.

To read the recent article in the Irish Times :

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Irish Times weighs in on US election

Would an Obama presidency be best for Ireland?
Kate Fitzgerald argues 'yes', Obama would benefit Ireland by reviving the economy, remaining engaged with Northern Ireland and favouring diplomacy over aggression, while Grant Lally says 'no', Barack Obama's suggestion that there might be no need for a US special envoy to Northern Ireland shows his naivety and lack of experience

Familes on move from Ireland

The Irish Independent has been following the continuing brain drain from Ireland. A story this week shows that the rate of emigration is at its highest for 20 years. The story does not say whether some of the outflow includes immigrant workers to Ireland but still, the numbers do show that Irish people are on the move again. In particular, Irish construction workers are being wooed in Canada and Australia.

Obama Reaches Out To Irish America

At last! Someone in Obama's campaign (or maybe it was the senator himself?) has reached out to the Irish American community. The Irish Voice, says that Obama has picked an "A Team" of Irish American experts to do just that.

Obama had foolishly left that role to Ms Trina Vargo who heads up the US-Ireland Alliance. That was a ridiculously bad move for Obama given that one of Vargo's first efforts included a statement suggesting that an Obama administration would abolish the post of US special envoy to the North of Ireland.The statement caused uproar in the Irish American community which worked so hard to secure the posting, a role which has helped maintain the fragile peace in the North. It also pried open a doorway for Senator John McCain to take advantage of the Irish American vote.

Now, the "A Team" includes such stalwart Irish Americans as Senators George Mitchell (retired, Maine), Chris Dodd (Connecticut), Edward Kennedy (Massachusetts) and Pat Leahy (Vermont), Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Congressmen Joe Crowley (New York) and Richard Neal (Massachusetts).Where does this all leave Ms Vargo?

We fervently hope she is removed from any position where she has the power to influence Irish American policy. Those of us who toil in the world of immigration reform are well aware of Ms Vargo's contempt for the Irish - despite the fact that her work is funded by the Irish taxpayer

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Fresh Approach and a Thumbs up for Taoiseach Cowen

The Irish Echo in New York published an article today outlining Toaiseach Cowen's visit and on the ILIR's response to their meetings with him. Things are most certainly looking positive. On behalf of you all I'd like to thank Mr Cowen for his forward thinking and dedication.

Here are just a couple of quotes from the article:

"Cowen pledged to make the visa and immigration issue a priority for his government. Speaking at the reception in the lobby of the Park Avenue building that houses the consulate, Cowen said that "this issue is a priority for me in the months and years ahead."

"...meeting prompted what an ILIR statement described as a "a hearty
thumbs-up" for the new taoiseach. ILIR vice-chairman, Ciaran Staunton, said Cowen had ushered in a new era in the Irish American relationship."

""We have a responsibility to continue to lobby and do so as effectively as we possibly can," he said. And he said the Irish government was prepared to look at a "reciprocal" visa arrangement with the U.S. "We can perhaps be more proactive on our side in making sure that more Americans, who want to come and visit and work in Ireland, get the chance to do so as well."

Read the full article here:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Taoiseach in New York

I'm back (that is Kate). Sorry for my short absence but I will be back giving you updates on what's going on with the ILIR and the campaign to find a resolution for our friends and families over in the States.

Here's a run down on what's been going on and what has been said in the last 48 hours -

Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen met with the ILIR this week in New York and announced his support for our campaign.

He spoke out on the plight of the undocumented Irish saying; "It's a priority for our administration to try and sort this out." Mr Cowen is determined that his administration will succeed where successive administrations have failed - in regularizing and improving immigration ties between Ireland and America.

This is welcome good news for the ILIR campaign and we have copied and pasted some of the week's reports.

Later, we will also send out an mp3 from Newstalk Radio in Ireland which featured a hard-hittng interview with ILIR vice-chairman Ciaran Staunton.

Taoiseach signals new campaign on illegalsIrish Times, Ireland - 15 hours agoTHE TAOISEACH, Brian Cowen, yesterday signalled that the Government would be launching a new drive to resolve the issue of the undocumented Irish in the US. ...

Government to consider deal for, Ireland - 19 hours agoThe Government is considering a special deal that would see Ireland easing restrictions on US immigrants in return for concessions on the undocumented Irish ...

Cowen 'more genuine in commitment to illegal Irish'Irish Independent, Ireland - 9 hours agoThe Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in the US says it believes Brian Cowen is more genuine in his commitment to helping illegal Irish immigrants than his ...

Cowen in visa bid to resolve emigrant plightIrish Independent, Ireland - 12 hours agoBy Fionnan Sheahan in New York TAOISEACH Brian Cowen wants to grant more visas to Americans to come to Ireland as a way to resolve the plight of illegal ...

Friday, June 6, 2008

Joe Duffy hit by wingnut brigade

My blood is boiling after listening to the bunch of self-righteous horrors who called in to the Joe Duffy show this week. Not one of the self-satisfied callers - many of whom had been in the US themselves - had any sympathy for a man called Gareth who was deported from the US after 20 years.

They also seemed to have very little knowledge of the current visa situation - one woman was labouring under the illusion that there was an amnesty (yes, Philomena, there was, but it happened in the early 1980s long before the new Irish began going to the US.)

Some other man said that being an undocumented immigrant was like breaking into a person's house. Another man actually said he would advocate the death penalty if that's what the US wanted.

Thankfully, Celine Kennelly, the Executive Director of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, was at home for her sister's wedding and called in. If not for Celine, the whole show would have been taken over by those vicious people who called in.

Celine also nailed the myths that the undocumented Irish could have sorted themselves out by now. As Celine pointed out there is no way for people to do that. Celine also added that they are seeing more and more people coming through the centres - higher numbers than have been seen in recent years.

Click here to hear the show

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More bad news on jobs front in Ireland

Funny; I had just posted yesterday when someone sent me a link to this story.
No surprise to some of us but it seems as if the Independent has only just learned that there's a lot of us struggling to stay afloat these days.
The story says that 25 per cent of the current jobs are expected to be lost in construction.
And where do you think people are going to go? London's not the big magnet people think it is because the cost of living is fierce expensive. I know people spending 500 sterling A WEEK for accommodation there. Compare that with 500 dollars A MONTH for a flat in the Bronx and the numbers soon start to add up.
And those numbers mean an increase in undocumented Irish in the US.
Making a bad problem worse.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Queuing for a Living

I left school in 1982 so I know what a recession looks like - Wonder if this picture is a clue on what's happening here again? My brother-in-law was doing his plumbing apprenticeship in FAS in Louth and Monaghan until three months ago when he got laid off. He's talking about joining HIS brother in New York. His brother's been in NYC since 1996 and he can get him work in construction. My brother-in-law's said he'd be making up his mind soon. He's out of work now for 14 weeks. Can't get anything here.

Sarah Joins the 33rd County

Hi there - I am a new addition to the blogging family here on The 33rd County. My name's Sarah and I live in Co Westmeath. I have two brothers and two sisters in New York. Two of them got Morrisons and the other two didn't so you can imagine how this affects our family. I got involved in the blog because I kept posting comments - Kate's asked me to give it a go, so you'll know all my posts because they'll be signed Sarah.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Major Boost for Our Friends and Family

I can happily report that I just received some great news from the ILIR. Following the changing of the guard in the Irish government Taoiseach Cowen has started his new career on an excellent note.

Unfortunately this week there was also bad news about Senator Edward Kennedy's health. The Friends and Family of the Undocumented send him our best and wish him a speedy recovery.


Taoiseach Brian Cowen Meets ILIR Chairman Niall O'Dowd: The Irish Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, met with the Chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, Niall O'Dowd, this week in Dublin for an hour-long meeting on the plight of the undocumented Irish in the US.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr O'Dowd described it as "very positive," and said it was clear that Mr Cowen is totally committed to helping the undocumented Irish. Mr Cowen said he will be visiting the US soon and intends to meet with the ILIR and people from the community.

He told Mr O'Dowd that he wants to hear first-hand from those most affected by the situation.Mr Cowen noted that he had worked in the US as a student and understood the impact on the Irish American community. We will keep you posted on any new developments in relation to the Taoiseach's visit to the US.

Prayers for Senator Edward Kennedy: Senator Edward Kennedy, 76, who was diagnosed with brain cancer on Tuesday, is in our thoughts this week. His commitment to securing comprehensive immigration reform has made him a hero in our community. Senator Kennedy is a real giant of the Senate. He put immigration reform on the map and has worked tirelessly to try and ensure that undocumented immigrants are not exploited and find a fair way to ensure they can stay here legally.

Without his work this issue would not even be on the radar. He attended three of our ILIR rallies and his impassioned words in defense of the undocumented will stay with us for a long time. He's been an enormous friend to undocumented Irish as well as every single Irish person who's ever set foot in the United States.

We wish him the best in his battle against his illness and we are certain that if anyone can recover from this illness he can.

Wishing you a peaceful Memorial Day Weekend,
warm regards,
Kelly Fincham, Executive Director, ILIR

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Outgoing Taoiseach Takes Another Swing at ILIR

You would think, well I would anyway, that the outgoing Taoiseach would have more important things to do than take another swing at the ILIR. But that's what happened in New York again this week with an Op-Ed penned by Bertie Ahern appearing in both the Irish Echo and the Irish Voice. The ILIR rallied to get in a response which you can read here

However, the real loser in all this are the people like my sister and her husband who are stranded in a no-man's land. They are at their wits' end and there is no help in sight. It beggars belief that the outgoing Taoiseach can not find something more constructive to do than try and smear the people who have been doing the most to find a solution.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Time to go to San Francisco?

A series of new television and radio commercials, billboards and bus shelter signs will soon go up around San Francisco advertising the fact that the city promises safe access to city services for the undocumented and a don't-ask-don't-tell policy when it comes residency status.

"We are standing up to say to all of our residents: We don't care what your status is," Mayor Gavin Newsom said. "We care that you, as a human being, are a resident of our city and we want you to participate in the life of our city."

The campaign precedes the city's plan in August to begin issuing municipal identification cards to city residents - regardless of whether they are in the country legally. Officials said they not only want immigrants to know about San Francisco's sanctuary city policy, they want city workers, business owners and others to know the same.

"We're taking a big bite of the reality sandwich in admitting that there are people who live here who may or may not have citizen status," said Supervisor Tom Ammiano, who helped spearhead the ad campaign and who represents the city's heavily Latino Mission District.

Police Chief Heather Fong said officers will report undocumented immigrants if they have a felony arrest, but otherwise, "we do not work on enforcing immigration laws."

Read the full story here. Picture shows Mayor Newsom with Fr Brendan McBride from the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center at an ILIR event in San Francisco.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Coast to Coast Criticism of Bertie Comments in US

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has sparked a storm of coast-to-coast criticism in the US after his comments last week over the undocumented Irish.

From San Francisco to Boston and New York, the main Irish newspapers ran the story as their page one lead on Wednesday, March 26.

The Irish Herald in San Francisco pulled no punches; "Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Turns His Back on Reform for the Undocumented Irish."

The Irish Echo Said "Row Deepens, ILIR seeks talks after Ahern's Remarks." and The Irish Voice led with "SOS for Bertie Meeting" and an editorial by Niall O'Dowd which said; "Why Neither Side Wins"

All three newspapers featured an Op Ed by California lawyer Bart Murphy which blasted the Government's attitude. The Herald actually ran the Op-Ed on the front page. In it, Mr Murphy said;
"with all the subtlety of a head-butt, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern turned his government's back on supporting recent proposals put forward by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform."
Irish American organizations have united in opposition to the Taoiseach's comments.

The uproar over the Taoiseach's comments is sure to overshadow his pending address to Congress on April 30.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Turns His Back on Reform for the Undocumented Irish

By Bart Murphy

“THE concept of an amnesty, wiping the sheet clean, is just not on.”
“They are talking from a position of sitting in the bar, and talking nonsense.”

With these comments made while standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. on St. Patrick’s afternoon, and with all the subtlety of a head-butt, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern turned his government’s back on supporting recent proposals put forward by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) for a U.S.-Ireland bilateral visa program.

This proposal would deal with the crisis of the undocumented Irish and finally provide a permanent and sensible pathway to Irish-U.S. migration going forward.

No less than two Aherns, Bertie the taoiseach and Dermot, the minister for foreign affairs, had previously made public and private commitments to support the proposal and push for its implementation in Washington.

However, it had become increasingly clear over the last six months that while a significant number of influential U.S. elected leaders were interested in pursuing discussions, for unexplained reasons our own team were not turning up for the match. Excuses were made, but no plausible rationale offered.

Labeling committed Irish immigrant advocates as misguided and uninformed bar-stool dreamers and the bilateral visa proposal an “amnesty,” Ahern set off a flurry of criticism over the Irish government’s refusal to push for a long-term and viable solution to the issue.

Reports and opinion pieces in the Irish and Irish American media bear headlines such as “A Kick in The teeth for the Irish in America,” “Ahern in Bar-Room Row Over U.S. Illegals”, “Pack Your Bags” and “The St. Patrick’s Day Insult.”

Talk about washing your linens in public! Bertie, what were you and your senior advisors thinking?

We may never know the answer, and it leaves many more unanswered questions regarding the Irish government’s real attitude and commitment to the future of its tens of thousands of undocumented men, women and children in the U.S.

It would be too easy to simply hurl back insults to the taoiseach and his senior advisers from the Department of Foreign Affairs for this grossly unwarranted and misleading criticism.

And perhaps that’s what Ahern’s comments were designed to do -– to shift the debate away from working on a solution, to trivialize the advocates, to personalize the debate.

For make no mistake about it, in all their uncouthness and insensitivity, Ahern’s comments were carefully planned and choreographed to cause damage. Having navigated the choppy waters of the Northern Ireland peace process for the last 20 years, these guys know how to spin an issue and shift a debate better than most.

By tarring the proposed bilateral visa solution as an “amnesty,” Ahern and his advisers want to knock it on its head. They know well that “amnesty” is the atomic bomb of U.S. immigration politics.

It is the language of Tancredo and Dobbs. It plays to people’s fears and the lowest common denominator in the immigration reform debate.

And it’s unfair and untrue. We sadly know too well the U.S. is not ready for broad, sweeping, comprehensive immigration reform.

The only significant U.S. immigration reform in the last 45 years has come about on a country by country and regional basis — El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Russia, Israel and South East Asia. Australia, Chile and Singapore now have long-term bilateral visa systems put in place with the U.S., each one a little bit different and tailored to country specific needs.

Given Ireland’s much vaunted relationship with the U.S. on a number of fronts, many experienced hands, including former Congressman Bruce Morrison, author of the Morrison visa program which granted 48,000 green cards to the Irish in the 1990s, feel that Ireland would be pushing “an open door” in seeking such an arrangement. It might not be perfect, it might need some finessing, but isn’t that what Bertie does best?

We’ve long heard the pious platitudes and sound-bytes of Ireland “cherishing our diaspora.” But those of us with memories longer than an Irish election cycle also recall the tepid reception and lack of interest previous Irish governments had in the Morrison and Donnelly proposals 20 years ago.

Without the push of the Irish Immigration Reform Movement and its allies, there are many now successful Irish men and women in America who would have been otherwise left twisting in the wind. Oh, how history repeats itself!

Let’s not confuse the issue. To give credit where its due, the Irish government has been proactive and very generous in recent years in funding U.S.-based Irish immigrant social service agencies.

But that generosity does not fix the long term political and social problems facing our undocumented in the U.S. It is at best, treating some of the symptoms and not the core illness.

Without bold, ambitious commitment and action on the part of the Irish government, the undocumented issue will keep getting bigger and bigger. Thirty-thousand to 50,000 people with roots in their local communities across the country, many now with U.S. born, school going children, are not going back to Ireland in the near or long term. And to suggest otherwise is a political cop-out.

A more famous and perhaps wiser and wilier Irish politician, Edmund Burke, once said that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Sorry, Bertie. I’m with Burke on this one.

(Bart Murphy serves on the board of directors of the San Francisco Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center, is past president and a member of the board of the National Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers and serves on the advisory board of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

A kick in the teeth for Irish in America

(Letters from the Irish Independent. People DO care!!!)

I find it hard to believe that the Taoiseach's remarks in Washington on the issue of illegal Irish immigrants in the US were deliberately contrived to damage their prospects of achieving legal status.

So I can only conclude that his comments on a potential amnesty were a display of his own monumental ignorance of the aims of the immigration reform lobby.

They have never sought an amnesty for Irish illegal immigrants.

They are aware that by doing so, they would likely alienate their key supporters in the US Congress.

The only people who have talked up the prospects of an amnesty have been the opponents of relevant immigration reform.

These include Democratic Party candidate Senator Barack Obama and his backers in the large US labour unions.

They deliberately raised it as a tactic to scare away the moderate support which the McCain/Kennedy plan had in Congress.

By raising this non-issue once more, the Taoiseach has given grist to the mill of the opponents of immigration reform.

Simultaneously he has delivered a kick in the teeth to the Irish in America, on St Patrick's Day, of all days.



> I wish to make some observations about the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's comments (Irish Independent, March 18) on illegal Irish in America.

I spent a summer in Boston some years back, and I did not know or hear of any unemployed, illegal Irish person.

You may say that they have to work because they will not receive any benefits from the US government.

However, it was my experience that the kind of people who made their way to the United States only seem to want to work hard.

And they are doing jobs most Americans would prefer not to do.

The United States is more than happy to turn a blind eye to the Irish who do the hard labour illegally and contribute to an economy that the Irish have helped build over generations.

Maybe instead rolling over for the Americans, the Taoiseach could bring up the tiny issue of illegal rendition flights landing on Irish soil at Shannon Airport.



Stop acting the Clown Senator and address the undocumented

Westmeath Fianna Fail Senator Donie Cassidy has been told to stop acting the clown and address the issue 'illegal' Irish people in America.

The remarks were made to the Leader of the Seanad by Fine Gael Senator Alan Kelly.

Senator Cassidy had accused the Fine Gael/Labour government of 1983 to 1987 of running tens of thousands of Irish people out of the country.

Alan Kelly said the current government was all over the place and the plight of illegal Irish people in Boston was scary.

Senator Cassidy said that everyone in the Seanad wanted to see the same result in relation to the undocumented Irish.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The ILIR is NOT talking nonsense in bars.....

A message from the ILIR: The ILIR is requesting an urgent meeting with An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to discuss the comments made by Mr Ahern on St Patrick's Day.

We have listed several articles below which detail the statements by the Taoiseach, and our response.

We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that we are not giving up on the undocumented Irish in the US. We will continue to battle on their behalf. We will not give up until this battle is over.

Pack your bags
Ahern advises undocumented to consider return trip (Irish Echo)

ILIR Says Ahern Is 'Misinformed'
THE Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) has expressed deep disappointment in Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern's comments in Washington, D.C. on St. Patrick's Day. (Irish Voice)

Time To Unite
Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern threw the cat among the pigeons this week when he accused Irish immigration advocates of seeking an unrealistic "amnesty" for the undocumented. (Irish Voice)

ILIR pushes Ahern to pursue viable visa plan
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was urged last night to personally ask US President George Bush to accept a deal to grant visas to 10,000 illegal Irish emigrants.

Audio Clips

Please feel free to comment on the official ILIR blog at or The 33rd County which is run by the Friends and Family in Ireland.

The St. Patrick's Day Insult and the Argentinian Visas

Last night I sent a press release out giving our reaction to what Mr Aherne said in Washington on our nations feast day. This is the gist of what I said:

The Families and Friends of the undocumented Irish in the US are extremely upset over what they called the"St Patrick's Day insult" from the Taoiseach.

Speaking in Washington yesterday, Mr Ahern said the undocumented Irish were sitting in bars in the US talking nonsense about a possible visa deal.

"Mr Ahern has stereotyped my sister, her husband, and all the other undocumented Irish in the US," said Kate Hickey, the head of the Families and Friends support group in Ireland.

"My sister was really depending on the Irish Government to help. She has been in the US for 12 years now and we were pinning our hopes on the Irish Government."

"The comments yesterday seem to suggest that the Taoiseach is walking away from us."


However, today it was reported that the day after these upsetting words came from our Taoiseach he announced that the government has organised a bilateral agreement for holiday visas with the Argentinian Government. ( )

Unfortunately Mr Aherne seems to think that a resolution is impossible, though apparently not in Argentina. He also sees the situation in the US as lost while those who have been constantly involved in the issue of visas and the undocumented, such as Bruce Morrison seem positive and are willing to work towards a resolution.

Monday, March 3, 2008

ILIR at the White House

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform ramped up their campaign in the US on Friday with a meeting in the White House with Ed Gillespie, the top advisor to President George W Bush.

Pictured left to right are; ILIR Executive Director Kelly Fincham, Vice-Chairman Ciaran Staunton, White House Counsellor Mr Gillespie, Chairman Niall O'Dowd, and ILIR Consultant Bruce Morrison.

We met Mr Gillespie to discuss a limited immigration reform package which could include an Irish element among its provisions. Chairman Niall O'Dowd said the meeting, which was set up by senior figures in the Republican Party in the US, was one of the most positive developments in recent times.

"We had a very constructive meeting at the White House with the President's top adviser, Ed Gillespie," he said.

"We had a wide-ranging discussion on Irish immigration and we made a concrete proposal to the White House which they have agreed to consider.

"Mr Gillespie was extremely knowledgeable on the issue and we look forward to future meetings with the White House," he said.

Mr Gillespie is the highest-ranking assistant to President Bush and is believed to be the "Mr Fixit" at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Mr Gillespie, whose father emigrated from Donegal, began his career on Capitol Hill as a parking attendant at the Senate car park.

In 2006, Mr Gillespie penned a Wall Street Journal editorial in support of a comprehensive immigration reform package in which he said: "The Republican Party cannot become an anti-immigration party."

Mr Gillespie, who assumed some of former Karl Rove's job in the White House, has been widely praised for his role in orchestrating a rapid-response PR unit dedicated to helping sell the "surge" in the Iraq war in the US.

Friday, February 29, 2008

ILIR at the White House for Immigration Meetings

The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform ramped up their campaign in the US on Friday with a meeting in the White House with Ed Gillespie, the top advisor to President George W Bush.

ILIR Chairman Niall O'Dowd, Vice-Chairman Ciaran Staunton, Executive Director, Kelly Fincham and Immigration Consultant Bruce Morrison met Mr Gillespie to discuss a limited immigration reform package which could include an Irish element among its provisions.

Chairman Niall O’Dowd said the meeting, which was set up by senior figures in the Republican Party US, was one of the most positive developments in recent times.

Hear Niall O'Dowd on RTE's News at One

Friday, February 22, 2008

New stories on Irish in the US

We received an email from the ILIR today which we are posting in full below;

The ILIR will be holding a series of town halls to address concerns in the community about immigration reform in the coming weeks. We will be emailing times + venues in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, we have gathered a selection of recent articles and radio shows here which have appeared in different sites this week. The articles are listed below with the relevant links. Please feel free to comment on the official ILIR blog at or The 33rd County which is run by the Friends and Family in Ireland.

An Open Letter to Bertie (Niall O'Dowd) The Irish Star, Feb 22, 2008
Excerpt: I was disappointed that you never mentioned the Irish undocumented issue in your remarks is important for you to know that thousands of Irish undocumented emigrants in America will be watching and listening too. You see you are their last real hope of achieving legal status in the United States.

Irish Government Slammed after Hands are Tied Claim over Undocumented
The Irish government has been slammed over its inaction on the undocumented issue. Activists have compared comments by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to those of the Mexican President who this week pledged to up his commitment to Mexican immigrants in the US.

Deportation Fear Cost Man His Life
The father of a County Derry man who died in the US said he believes his son delayed seeking medical treatment because he feared being deported.

ILIR on Irish Radio Show
Interview with ILIR vice-chairman Ciaran Staunton and an undocumented Irish man on the "Right Hook" radio show in Ireland

And the work goes on....

I just recieved this round up for February from the ILIR. It makes for good reading and it just shows that on both sides of the Atlantic the fight is continuing. All we're lacking is the support of our government.

ILIR eNewsletter:

The ILIR will be holding a series of town halls to address concerns in the community about discussions with the Irish Government and also the wider effort for immigration reform. We will be emailing times + venues in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, we have gathered a selection of recent articles and radio shows here which have appeared in different sites this week. The articles are listed below with the relevant links. Please feel free to comment on the official ILIR blog at or The 33rd County which is run by the Friends and Family in Ireland.

An Open Letter to Bertie (Niall O'Dowd) The Irish Star, Feb 22, 2008Excerpt: I was disappointed that you never mentioned the Irish undocumented issue in your remarks is important for you to know that thousands of Irish undocumented emigrants in America will be watching and listening too. You see you are their last real hope of achieving legal status in the United States.

Irish Government Slammed after Hands are Tied Claim over UndocumentedThe Irish government has been slammed over its inaction on the undocumented issue. Activists have compared comments by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to those of the Mexican President who this week pledged to up his commitment to Mexican immigrants in the US.

Deportation Fear Cost Man His LifeThe father of a County Derry man who died in the US said he believes he delayed medical treatment because he feared being deported.

ILIR on Irish Radio Show

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Irish American Anger as Bertie Backs Off On Undocumented Irish

Irish Americans have reacted with anger to the latest statement from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on the undocumented Irish.

This week the Taosieach said there was no hope of any deal on the Irish undocomented in the US and his comments sparked fury among the Irish in the US, and their families back home.

ILIR vice-chairman Ciaran Staunton, who succesfully tackled Mitt Romney on US television over his anti-immigrant campaign, said he was extremely disappointed in the Irish Government.

"Why didn't they look for a bilateral visa deal that would facilitate Irish and U.S. citizens alike," he said. "The Irish government has closed the door on a bilateral. They have clearly walked away from the undocumented," Staunton said.

His words were echoed by undocumented Irish immigrants in New York.

Deirdre Foy, who has been living in the U.S. for 11 years, expressed her upset with Ahern's attitude towards her situation. "I'm very disappointed with his comments. Both he and (Foreign Minister) Dermot Ahern have promised our community that every effort was being made by the Irish government to rectify the Irish undocumented situation in the U.S.," she said.

Asking if Ahern had forgotten the cross-party agreement that was entered into last fall in which all Irish political parties pledged to do their utmost for the undocumented, Ms Foy said, "Those of us here in the U.S. don't have the same short term memory like they do and neither do our friends and family in Ireland. His comments have not been taken lightly on either side of the Atlantic."

Samantha Melia, who has been living in New York for eight years with her husband Liam, was also upset with Ahern's comments."He is an absolute disgrace — I just don't understand the whole thing. There are other countries that negotiate deals, such as Australia or Chile. Why can't we?" she said.

Ms Melia feels the Irish government has left down its Irish citizens. "Bertie will go down in history for the man who turned away an opportunity that was created by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) to get status for the undocumented Irish," she said. "We give the United States Shannon so why can't we get 10,000 visas for our citizens in return?" she said.

Meanwhile, the executive director of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, Kelly Fincham, said she was surprised to hear of the Taoiseach's comments given that discussions are still ongoing in Capitol Hill.

Ms Fincham said that she had been attending meetings with the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Washington this week which debated details of new negotiations in Capitol Hill.

"The Hispanic caucus in the House of Representatives is spearheading an effort to negotiate a five-year temporary work and travel visa for the undocumented as part of a package which would see passage of a bill aimed at expanding the H-2B temporary work visa program," she said.

"Surely our representatives in Washington should have told the Taoiseach that the issue of immigration reform is still being debated in Congress. It's not dead. It's not off the agenda," Ms Fincham said.

"The issue is still very much alive in Washington with the Hispanic caucus effort at the moment to try and cobble together some sort of legalization program in this Congress in this session," she said.

She also pointed to the fact that the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, is continuing his week-long tour of the US which is aimed at letting the undocumented Mexican community know that they have his backing.

Ms Fincham said: "It is so poignant to watch the news this week and see the president of Mexico so actively reaching out to the undocumented Mexicans to let them know that he has not forgotten them and he is working on their behalf to find a solution.".

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Immigrants Gain Support from Their Government

It would be funny if it weren't true.

This week, the same week that the Irish Government slammed the door shut on the undocumented Irish in the US, the leader of the Mexican Government is heading to the US to lobby on behalf of his citizens.

This week, the same week that the Irish Government doffs its cap and says it can't be seen to be asking for favours from the landlord, the leader of the Mexican Government is battling on for his constituents.

This week, Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, says:

The message I hope to convey to Mexicans in the United States is that their government has not abandoned them and will help protect their civil rights, even if they broke the law by crossing the border.

The fundamental message is that we are with them, that the Mexican government is paying attention to Mexicans here in Mexico and in whatever other part of the world, and we are ready to help them with their problems.
Where have you gone Bertie Ahern? What about your Irish citizens in the US? Are you going to dump them like the emigrants to Britain were dumped?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What is Bertie Up To?

There's a piece in today's Irish Times which quotes Bertie Ahern as saying the issue of the undocumented Irish is off the agenda. Since When? What is going on here? We've been told time and time again that the undocumented Irish are the "highest priority" for the department of foreign affairs. How can they be off the agenda? Can anyone tell us what is going on? There's also a piece in today's New York Times which says the White House is looking at changing some of the temporary working programmes. If immigration is not off the agenda for the White House, how come it's off the agenda for Bertie?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Irish Immigrant Dies Alone in Boston

A toast to an Irishman, By Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe, January 31, 2008

Eddie Treacy lived in the shadows and died in his bed, the covers pulled up, his lungs full of fluid.

He was 33 years old, and there is no other way to say this: He died too young.

He came to Dorchester eight years ago from Athenry, in County Galway, part of what could be the last great wave of the young Irish to come here.

Boston is still Irish enough for a guy like Eddie Treacy to fit in. There's always enough work, and there are Gaelic games in Canton on the weekends and fresh brown bread every day at Greenhills Bakery in Adams Village.

Eddie was a master carpenter and made a decent living. For a young man, he was old school, using a simple tool called a square.

Eddie only needed one measurement for a job. Others would punch away at calculators, but Eddie would do the calculations in his head, and hand off the wood, cut precisely, like a diamond.

After a day's work, Eddie would make his way to the Eire Pub for a few jars. If the stool next to his great pal, Muldoon, was open, he would take it.

"How's Mul?" Eddie would ask.

"How's Eddie?" Muldoon would ask back.

And then they would silently watch the news on the TV set over the head of Martin Nicholson, the barman. With Eddie, there was no need for long yarns or running commentary.

Eddie was a rare Irishman, in that he was a great listener, not a great talker. If he agreed with you, he would nod, almost imperceptibly. If he thought you were full of it, he would raise an eyebrow, a silent indictment.

Like other illegal immigrants, he wanted to legalize his residency. He would have paid anything, done anything. But there was no way.

He thought about going home, as his brother Michael did, not long after Eddie first came here.

But Eddie liked it here, so he stayed on, kept his head down.

He didn't ask for much. Once, he told Muldoon he would be happy if he died in his own bed and they played "The Fields of Athenry" at his funeral. They both laughed, because young men don't think they will ever die.

Eddie died in his own bed. We will never know if it was stubborn pride or a fear of being deported that kept him from going to a hospital to treat the pneumonia that killed him. Maybe he just didn't realize how sick he was.

Gerry Treacy hadn't seen his brother in eight years, and when he finally did, Eddie was lying in a casket inside the Keaney Funeral Home on Dot Ave.

"He was a quiet lad," Gerry Treacy was saying, as he and Michael prepared to bring their brother home. "He liked the simple pleasures."

Brendan McCann, a senior at BC High, stood near the altar and played "The Fields of Athenry" on his fiddle as they wheeled Eddie Treacy's casket down the aisle of St. Brendan's Church.

All around the church, there were images of another carpenter who died at 33, nearly 2,000 years ago, another carpenter who some people dismissed as a criminal.

After Mass, about 200 people posed on the front steps of the church for a photo to send back to Eddie's mother, Ann, so she would know that Eddie mattered here. Many of the young men standing there had given up a day's wages to pay their respects.

Then everybody went to Sonny's, the pub that sponsored the Father Tom Burke hurling teams Eddie played for and managed.

Muldoon raised a glass to his friend.

"We'll never see the likes of him again," he said.

On Monday night, as President Bush told the nation that we need to find "a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally," Eddie Treacy's body was in the cargo hold of Aer Lingus Flight 132, somewhere over the Atlantic, heading home.

Eddie Treacy was buried today, where he wanted to be, in the fields of Athenry.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pulling their weight?

Why don’t we find out what our politicians are doing for our friends and family? It seems that those in Stormont are being a little more proactive than their counterparts in the South. Why don’t you phone your local politicians and ask them why this is?

Irish Times -
US candidates urged to back illegal Irish
Wed, Jan 23, 2008

Candidates for the US Presidency were today urged to pledge their support to a campaign to grant around 50,000 illegal Irish immigrants citizenship.

Letters have been sent to all Democratic and Republican candidates for the White House by Sinn Fein Assembly member Cathal Boylan urging them to resolve the plight of the undocumented Irish.

"Despite having made a positive contribution to US society, these thousands of Irish emigres find themselves classed as felons," the Newry and Armagh MLA argued.

"I have urged all of the candidates in this presidential election year, to raise the case for these hard working, law abiding Irish people to be brought into the fold of US life in a complete way, allowing them to be given an amnesty which would enable them to travel freely between their homeland and the USA without fear or penalty."

The issue of immigration has proven a hot topic on the campaign trail in the Democratic and Republican Party's White House races.

Arizona Senator John McCain, who has got off to a strong start in the hunt for the Republican nomination, has received the backing of some Irish Americans for drafting a Bill with Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy which would have created a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Other Republican rivals have been more hawkish on the issue, with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and ex New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani attacking each other on their immigration records during debates.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has advocated the building of a 700-mile border fence to keep out illegal immigrants.

On the Democratic side, the front-runner New York Senator Hillary Clinton and her rivals Illinois Senator Barack Obama and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards have pretty similar views - arguing for tighter border controls, cracking down on those who illegally employ and exploit immigrant labour and reforming the system to ensure immigrants do not have to choose between their families and a new life in the US.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Do Something!

Today’s Irish Independent announced:

Ahern plans his Congress speech

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is now expected to deliver his historic address to the joint Houses of Congress in Washington in late April or early May.

Last night, a Government spokesman gave the first indication of a date being scheduled for Mr Ahern's speech, although he stressed it is entirely up to the US side to determine when it will happen. The dates around April 28, 29, and 30 are now under discussion.
This news comes over two months on from the Dáil’s bilateral agreement to find a solution to the plight of our friends and family in the US. Unfortunately this week I was told by Fine Gael representatives that apart from one meeting on the topic in December nothing has been done.

TD Michael Ring, who brought the question to the Dáil in November, told me, “I have tabled further Parliamentary Questions for answer when the Dáil resumes at the end of the month.” While we are thankful to those in government who are trying to raise the topic it is clear that not enough is being done. At the end of January it is laughable to use Christmas Holidays as an excuse.

We are now planning a meeting of the Friends and Family in Dublin before the Taoiseach’s trip to try to gather momentum on the topic. What is needed now is for everyone to email / phone their local politicians and see what they can do. We need to act now.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

US-Ireland Alliance No Ally of Irish

There's an organisation out there called the "US -Ireland Alliance" which claims that its mission is "improving ties between the American and Irish peoples".

Well someone needs to remind the president, one Trina Vargo, of that mission, because it seems as if she is intent on dis-improving those ties.

Ms Vargo has repeatedly castigated undocumented Irish immigrants in the US, and those who lobby for them, as "pigs".

It seems Ms Vargo believes that this group of immigrants should not be looking for anyone to help them in the absence of federal legislation.

Perhaps Ms Vargo could better spend her time lobbying HER OWN government on the absence of legislation rather than attacking us Irish people who are trying to help our vulnerable countrymen.

Enda Kenny Gives Us an Update

I just I got a call from Enda Kenny, opposition, Fine Gael leader following an email I sent his office in the morning. In my email I asked what was being done to help the plight of the undocumented in the US.

Mr Kenny explained to me that the Irish government has decided to prepare itself for “March when the Taosieach makes a speech in front of the American congress.” He added that he did not agree with this approach.

“By the time we get over there in March we should be in cahoots with the politicians over there,” he said. “There are politicians over in the US such as Schumer and Kennedy who are ready to talk. Mr Ahern and Dermot Ahern need to get into talks in advance.” This is exactly what we need and what we want. Now we just have to make it happen.

Mr. Kenny has assured me that he will let us know how the government is acting on the issue as time goes on. I’d like to thank Mr. Kenny again for keeping us informed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

If we talk they'll act

Are you worried about your friends and families in America?

We are. It seems as if everyone has forgotten about them in the fuss over the US elections.

There's only one issue that we care about and that's getting our families and friends legal. We've spent the weekend copying and pasting the details of the people in government and we hope you can take a minute to call your local TD.

Ask them the following question:
"What is the Government doing to help our families and friends get legal in America?"

Those in government need to act. You can find there numbers and others here -

Talk is cheap; we need action on this!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Pay Attention

It's good to see that somebody in government can remember as far back as November, when there was a bilateral agreement that "action", on the plight of the undocumented in the US, would be taken. Perhaps the politicians in the Dáil might listen to what Raymond McCarthy has to say.

Plea for States' 'undocumented'

By Staff reporter

Undocumented Irish people living in America should be recognised for their contribution to society and have their status formalised, a Derry MLA has claimed.

Sinn Féin’s Raymond McCartney said it was “simply wrong” that thousands of 'undocumented Irish' in America are facing an uncertain future.He said: "This is an issue that affects people right across Ireland who have family members living and working in America whom they have not set eyes on due to the restrictions on travel enforced by their undocumented status."

Politicians on this side of the Atlantic have an important role to play in pressuring the US administration to regularise the status of the thousands of Irish whose freedom of movement is presently restricted. “A collective push by all political parties to end this wrong must be a priority.”

The full article contains 139 words and appears in Foyle News newspaper.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Questioning Politicians

It’s has been all over Google for the last two days; New York Daily News, NY, Worcester Telegram, MA and USA Today. Ciaran Staunton, one of the heads of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, in the US, confronted one of the contenders for the presidential election, Mitt Romney, on his “flip flop” approach to immigration.

This is the kind of tactic which we need to use more, as a group. The politicians are answerable to us, the people. Let’s start asking them for answers. As we all know too well issues can fall better the floorboards and be ignored. It’s our job to constantly remind OUR politician who they’re working for: our friends and family.

Call your local politicians and ask them what they’re doing for your friends and families or even better call Bertie Ahern and Dermot Ahern and ask them exactly when we can expect the “action” which they promised us back in November 2007.

New York Daily News, NY

Queens Republican pours immigration anger on Mitt Romney before debate
Sunday, January 6th 2008, 4:00 AM

DERRY, N.H. - Mitt Romney's friendly warmup for the big debate Saturday turned into a dustup over immigration with a Queens saloon keeper, who toted a "No Irish Need Apply" sign.
"Have you no shame?" asked Ciaran Staunton, 44, of Sunnyside, who posed the first query at Romney's "Ask Mitt Anything" session with about 200 fans.

Staunton accused Romney of switching to a hard-line stance against immigration. He said there were 50,000 to 60,000 undocumented Irish immigrants in the U.S., "many of them mothers and fathers of American children. Just remember that they're human beings."

Romney shot back that "we simply cannot take all the people in the world who want to come to America.

"We're going to enforce the law," Romney said. "I love legal immigration, but I want to end illegal immigration."

Romney has called for border fences, biometric ID cards and cuts in federal funds to cities that fail to track illegal immigrants. He has accused Rudy Giuliani of running a "sanctuary city" as New York City's mayor.

Staunton, who runs O'Neill's pub on Third Ave., drove up to confront Romney with his sign, which stood out in the sea of supporters.

Bob Connal, 48, of Derry, backed Romney's stance and said when he travels on business to Texas, "nobody speaks English" in restaurants.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Shannon deal should lead to visa deal

Quid pro quo

By Ray O'Hanlon

An anticipated deal that would result in Shannon Airport becoming a clearance facility for the U.S. Customs should be contingent on relief for the undocumented Irish in America, according to Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh.
McHugh accused the Fianna Fáil-dominated government of "once again" neglecting the undocumented Irish in the U.S. by missing "a golden opportunity" to bring up their plight with the Bush administration.
McHugh pointed to recent reports that the Irish and U.S. governments were close to a deal allowing the U.S. to use Shannon as a customs and security clearance facility but, despite the high level contacts, Fianna Fáil, he said, had "refused" to bring up the issue of the undocumented Irish.
"Once again the Irish government is going to make a deal with the
Americans over Shannon and the issue of the undocumented Irish in America has not been brought to the table. This subject was debated in the Dáil and we were assured that the government would make every effort to help those in America, but this is clearly not the case," the Donegal Dáil Deputy alleged.
McHugh said he understood that Minister Noel Dempsey and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had been in negotiations aimed at opening a U.s. security clearance and customs facility at the County Clare airport.
"Senior Fianna Fáil ministers assured us all that every opportunity would be used to promote the campaign of the Irish in the United States yet, despite this massive opportunity," Fianna Fáil neglected to bring up this issue," McHugh stated.
And he added: "Irish people are living like escaped felons in America. All they want to do is pay their taxes and be able to live their lives in a normal way. If the Fianna Fáil government cared enough, they would use this opportunity to bargain with the Americans but once again they have failed the families of those in America.
"Life as an illegal citizen is deteriorating by the week, with reports of hundreds of deportations each month. Many cannot risk coming home, even for their parents' funerals, because they will be caught and deported. If the Irish government applied enough pressure on the U.S., this deplorable situation would no longer occur."
Time and time again, said McHugh, Fianna Fáil ministers had talked a good game about fighting for the Irish in America but when push came to shove they had done nothing. "This Shannon contact is the latest example and it is the undocumented Irish who once again suffer as a result," he said.
McHugh referred indirectly to the fact that Shannon is already a major stopover for U.S. troops flying to and from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other destinations in the Middle East and Asia.
"Whether we like it or not, we helped the Americans with their war in Iraq, and it is high time we got something in return. Many will say that they invest millions in this country, but that is hardly out of goodwill. I am calling on the Fianna Fail government to help our Irish citizens in America and allow them to be home next Christmas," he said.
Expectations have been rising in recent months that the Irish government would seek to reach a bilateral visa deal with the U.S. though such a pact, some fear, would or could not actually cover the undocumented Irish.
This story appeared in the issue of January 2-8, 2008