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.