Boost for US campaign to legalise the Irish
There are renewed hopes for the undocumented Irish in the US after President Barack Obama made positive comments on the issue at the annual St Patrick’s Day shamrock ceremony in Washington.
Amid a new wave of Irish emigration, pressure has grown to allow an estimated 50,000 Irish in the US work and travel normally.
‘Illegal’ Irish emigrants are unable to visit family back in Ireland and live in fear of sudden deportation.
Speaking at Washington’s official St Patrick’s Day shamrock ceremony on Tuesday night, the president said the Irish were an example of why the US required a new immigration system that “works for families and businesses and our economy.”
He said that the achievement of the many Irish in America pointed to the need “to build an immigration system for the 21st century.”
26-County Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave the traditional gift of shamrock in a custom-made crystal bowl to the US president, Mr Obama’s fifth annual St Patrick’s Day reception.
Mr Kenny referred to Ireland’s economic troubles, a frequent theme in his public comments in the US. “We’ve still a long way to go,” said the Taoiseach.
Mr Obama praised the help shown by the Irish to help the residents of Breezy Point in New York, one of the worst areas hit by Hurricane Sandy last year.
“New York has been very good to the Irish; now the Irish are giving back to New York,” he said.
The event was attended by several hundred people, including the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
A delegation from Sinn Fein earlier met new US Secretary of State John Kerry and senior State Department officials.
The Sinn Fein delegation included party leader Gerry Adams, deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein U.S. representative Rita O’Hare, and party press officer Richard McAuley.
“The meeting with Secretary Kerry was very positive and constructive,” said Adams.
“The US Secretary of State has had a long involvement with the Irish peace process. Next month marks the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
“This morning I raised with Secretary Kerry our concerns around outstanding issues arising from the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements, including a bill of rights for the North; Acht na Gaeilge and a border poll.
“We also discussed a range of other matters including the need for an economic dividend and the continued imprisonment of Marian Price and Martin Corey.
“Our conversation also included the recent violence around the flags issue and the serious problems posed by sectarianism and segregation.”