By Noreen Bowden | April 16, 2008
The Irish Voice has published a statement from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern on the recent controversy over the campaign on behalf of the undocumented.
The Irish Voice is the New York Irish-American newspaper published by Niall O’Dowd, a leading campaigner in the fight to legalise undocumented immigrants and one of the founders of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. The ILIR has criticised statements by the Taoiseach last month that those campaigning for the undocumented were “sitting in the bar and talking nonsense”. He also suggested that the Irish-American reformers were seeking ‘amnesty’, a claim the ILIR denies.
In his statement, Taoiseach Ahern says that he will pay tribute to the Irish community in the US in his speech to Congress on April 30. He continues:
In my address, I will also once again emphasize the government’s strong support for the undocumented Irish. In doing so, I will be making a further direct intervention on an issue to which, rightly and very willingly, I have given unprecedented priority during my time in office.
I firmly believe that the government’s record on behalf of the undocumented and all our emigrants in the United States is second to none.
The Taoiseach then outlines Government efforts on behalf of the undocumented, and notes that Congressional contacts have given the Government advice that “it will be exceptionally difficult to build the necessary political support for such a measure during the period of the presidential election campaign. We may not like this advice, but we cannot ignore it or wish it away.”
The Taoiseach notes that no other country has secured a bilateral visa deal with the US that would be open to undocumented citizens.
The issue of the undocumented Irish has been a priority for this government not for any selfish reason or for political advantage — because there is little or none — but because we are committed to helping those of our citizens who have found themselves in this unfortunate position.
Mr Ahern concluded his piece by stating, “We will continue to press the case for change and look forward to working with the many organisations in the US who have worked hard on behalf of the undocumented. We should and must work together”.