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Bilateral nod

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

As main opposition party in the D_il, Fine Gael has the right to present so-called private members bills on two D_il sitting days. The party moved to do so last night.
Fine Gael, whose leader Enda Kenny has repeatedly raised the issue of the undocumented on both sides of the Atlantic, will use its additional time today in an effort to secure a majority D_il vote in favor of securing a bilateral.
“The move is not aimed at attacking the government. We would like to see them with us on this. The idea is to speed things up,” a Fine Gael spokesman told the Echo.
The debate came against the backdrop of a rally outside Leinster House, where the D_il sits, organized by a group called “The Families and Friends of the Undocumented Irish.”
The group gathered at lunchtime Tuesday and called on Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to “help us bring our families and friends home from the U.S.”
This is a reference to the fact that the undocumented cannot risk traveling back to Ireland for even the most important family reasons because they fear being prevented from reentering the U.S. due to the three and ten year barring rules.
A spokesman for the group, Kate Hickey, said that people traveled from all over Ireland to attend the rally.
Fine Gael’s D_il motion was presented by the party’s Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs spokesman, Deputy Michael Ring.
Fine Gael believed a bilateral agreement on immigration would encourage deeper economic and social ties between Ireland and the U.S. and facilitate American citizens, including members of the Irish Diaspora who wish to live and work in Ireland, Ring said in a statement.
“It would also help regularize the status of the 25-50,000 undocumented Irish in the U.S. who are under increasing pressure and fear of deportation,” Ring said.
“I believe there is a real window of opportunity at the moment and I would like to see the taoiseach and senior government ministers energetically pushing for this important development.
“A precedent exists in the form of a bilateral agreement between the U.S. administration and the Australian government which allows 10,000 Australians work in the U.S. annually while U.S. citizens are granted the same number of Australian visas in return,’ Ring added.
He said that given the strong economic ties between the island of Ireland and the United States he believed that a bilateral agreement was the way forward “and would also be a fitting way to mark the tenth anniversary of the Good Friday agreement.”
Fine Gael’s motion attracted support from other opposition parties Labor and Sinn F

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