Dáil Éireann - Volume 624 - 04 October, 2006
Written Answers. - Undocumented Irish Emigrants.
Mr. O’Connor Mr. O’Connor
Mr. O’Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contacts he is maintaining with Government and other political leaders in the United States of America with regard to the plight of the undocumented Irish in America; the actions he is taking to progress the campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31147/06]
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Mr. D. Ahern: The welfare of the undocumented Irish in the United States is a matter of the highest priority for the Government. I raise our concerns in all of my dealings with contacts on Capitol Hill and in the US Administration. In particular, I emphasise our strong support for measures that would enable the undocumented to regularise their status and have open to them a path to permanent residency.
Over the St Patrick’s Day period, the Taoiseach and I availed fully of our valuable meetings with President Bush and with Members of Congress to reiterate to them our views on this matter. The President helpfully assured us of his support for a comprehensive approach to immigration which advances reforms, as well as addresses enforcement issues. I am pleased to note that this is an approach which he has endorsed strongly on a number of occasions since then.
In view of the prominence of immigration on the legislative agenda in the US, I returned to Washington D.C. in May to reiterate to key legislators the importance which the Government attaches to the welfare of the undocumented Irish.
 The passage through the US Senate that month of a comprehensive bill on immigration with provisions that would provide a path to permanent residency for the majority of the undocumented represented a significant and positive development in the legislative debate.
While encouraged by the passing of the Senate bill, we recognise that securing consensus on this sensitive and divisive issue remains a very considerable challenge. In view of this, we greatly appreciate the firm commitment to a comprehensive and positive approach that Senator Kennedy, Senator McCain and others continue to promote.
In addition to my on-going contacts with US political figures, I continue to liaise very closely with the Irish community organisations in the United States. While in New York last week, I met again with representatives of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, an organisation that is proving most effective in representing the views of the undocumented Irish and which the Government has been happy to support financially. I also had a valuable exchange with Irish community welfare and advisory groups in the New York area.
The Deputy can be fully assured that my efforts on behalf of the undocumented Irish will continue to be accorded the highest priority in the critical period ahead.
Dáil Éireann 624 Written Answers. Undocumented Irish Emigrants.