Donaghy, who lives on the Island of Hawaii (often referred to a simply the “Big Island”) was traveling to Cork to study for a PHD in ethnomusicology at UCC.
However Donaghy, his wife Marie and daughter Denyce were refused entry by the Garda National Immigration Bureau getting off a flight from Los Angeles.
Instead of being admitted they had to fly back to New York.
The denial of entry to the Donaghys – reported in the Irish language newspaper L_ Nua – is this week casting light on an issue that gets less play than how difficult it is for the Irish to move to the U.S. – and that is how hard it can sometimes be for U.S. citizens to move to Ireland, even on a temporary basis.
After returning to New York, Donaghy contacted the Irish Consulate in Manhattan.
The family has now traveled to Philadelphia for a few days to stay with relatives and await word of a possible change of mind in Dublin.
“I’ve just spoken to the International Student Office at UCC and I’m going to write a formal appeal,” Donaghy told the Echo from Philadelphia.
He said that his most immediate concern was his high school age daughter who was lined up for a place in a school in Cork.
“My daughter has to get back to school, either in Cork or Hawaii,” Donaghy said.
Donaghy is an Assistant Professor of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, a city on the north shore of the Big Island.
He was planning to spend up to a year at UCC spend as part of his doctoral research program.
“I’ve been hoping to do this for the past five years and have been working hard to finalize arrangements these past nine months. We were so close to this dream,” Donaghy said.
Donaghy, who was given the honorary Hawaiian name Keola when he was a boy, said that his family had the necessary finances to support themselves in Ireland for the next year.
A possible complication, however, was that his daughter was enlisted for a public school in Cork and not a private one.
“We checked around for schools for our daughter Denyce (Hawaiian name Malia), and enrolled her in St. Aloysius’ school near the University,” Donaghy explained on a website blog that he maintains.
“The principal informed us that Denyce could enroll in the school, and that we could reimburse the school the capitation fee that they receive from the state, along with some other administrative fees. She stated that there was plenty of room in the school’s transition year program, and added that ‘her presence here will add to the educational experience of our Transition Year students and we are delighted to have her on roll,” Donaghy wrote.
Irish immigration authorities, however, apparently took the view that the Donaghys intended to enter to enter the country for purposes other than those expressed.
“Keola was going to pay his own way. He was not going to take anyone’s job. He had budgeted for nine months to a year’s spending money, Conn O Muineachain, a friend of the Donaghys who was planning to put them up at his County Clare home for a few days, told the Echo.
On his blog, Donaghy said that the immigration officer at Dublin airport, while polite, had stated that that dependents of people traveling on student visas were not allowed into the country.
“I asked if they could come just on a three month visa, and he replied no. He said that I could stay in the country, but my wife and daughter would have to leave. I explained that was not an option for us, and that if we were not allowed in the country that I would have to leave with them. I asked if I could come in on just a visitor visa with them and work the situation regarding school out later, and was told no,” Donaghy wrote.
“I don’t blame the immigration officer. I just feel that he misjudged us and our intentions,” Donaghy told the Echo.
He said that his daughter had become particularly distraught at the refusal.
The family had been traveling for over 36 hours, over 24 of them from Hawaii with a brief visit with Donaghy’s brother during an LA stopover.
“As disappointed as I am for myself, I am devastated for my daughter, who was really looking forward to spending a year among students in a foreign land, and being an ambassador for bother her own school and Hawaii. My wife was looking forward to spending a year exploring Cork, at no cost to the state, learning the arts, and probably spending a lot of time with the young children of our many friends there,” Donaghy wrote on his blog.
“I understand the need for immigration laws and officers. We went to Ireland in good faith, believing that we had done everything required of us to enter and stay in the country. We were completely honest with the immigration officer, no matter what he thinks to the contrary.”