Category: Archive

Row deepens

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

A statement from the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers released on Tuesday described the comments as being “deeply offensive.”
And an op-ed in this issue of the Irish Echo, San Francisco-based immigrant activist Bart Murphy charged that Ahern had delivered his remarks, made in Washington on St. Patrick’s Day, with “all the subtlety of a head-butt.”
Meanwhile, the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform is this week seeking “urgent talks” with Ahern as a result of his comments on U.S. soil.
While in Washington, Ahern poured cold water on prospects of visas for undocumented Irish immigrants and suggested that they might want to think about packing their bags and returning to Ireland.
However, it was comments by Ahern alluding to talk on immigration reform in bars that hit a nerve with Irish American campaigners.
Beyond these words, ILIR wants to find out from Ahern why the Irish government has apparently stepped back on a previously announced effort to secure a bilateral visa deal with Washington that would cover movement of Irish citizens to the U.S., and U.S. citizens to Ireland.
“We are seeking urgent talks with Mr. Ahern,” said ILIR’s executive director Kelly Fincham.
“Over the past six months, the Department of Foreign Affairs had led us to believe that they were negotiating on the basis of the Bruce Morrison proposal.
Mr. Morrison had drawn up a proposal which would have created a new bilateral visa,” Fincham said in reference to former congressman Bruce Morrison who has been acting on behalf of ILIR on Capitol Hill
“This visa would have given Ireland several thousand working visas a year and also helped to legalize the undocumented,” Fincham said.
“However, now it appears that they (the Irish government) have thrown that proposal into the bin.
Fincham said that Irish Foreign Minister, Dermot Ahern, had announced that the Irish Government would be seeking a bilateral deal to legalize the Irish – this at the Louth Dinner Dance in New York two years ago.
“He repeated that promise again at the ILIR rally in Dublin last April. We are seeking an urgent explanation of the gap between what he has told us, and what the taoiseach has said,” said Fincham.
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers condemned what it called the stereotyping of committed Irish advocates as “sitting in bars and talking nonsense.”
This was “particularly offensive to all of us who have worked for years to improve the situation of Irish immigrants across the USA,” the statement said in reference to the taoiseach’s comment.

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