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    Stop misleading the undocumented, says Taoiseach

    Wednesday, April 16th, 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.

    He adds, 

    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”.

    Read the entire document on the Irish Voice website.

    The ILIR has issued a response, which is available on the Irish Voice website.

    Seanad loses emigrant advocate

    Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

    A longtime advocate for emigrants has lost his place in the Seanad. Pascal Mooney, a former journalist and broadcaster, says he is devasted by the loss in this year’s elections. He was first elected to the body in 1987.

    Mr Mooney’s interest in emigrant issues had its roots in his own experience living in London for seven years in the 1970s. He often highlighted emigrant issues, and had a special concern for the emigrants who went to Britain in the 1940s and 1950s. He told the paper,

    “The biggest single fallout from this political disaster is that all work now stops at national level. It’s always been seen as a marginal issue and many do not understand the psyche of the emigrant. I have always been acutely aware of it.”

    He said that he had been receiving support from individuals and emigrant groups in Britain, adding that his supporters “have been making strong representations to make sure the emigrant voice is continued.

    Read the article at the Irish Post website.

    Minister for Integration once faced ethnic abuse

    Monday, July 16th, 2007

    Justice Minister Conor Lenihan, who has recently been appointed Minister for Integration,  has told the Irish Independent that he was subjected to a serious incident of racial abuse while working in London in the 1980s. The incident occurred in a pub, when four men began shouting at him about the North.

    “You have that awful dilemma: do I finish the pint or leave it? I made out as if I was going to the lavatory but I sprinted for the door.”

    Mr Lenihan said the four men chased him down the street while shouting, “you Irish bastard”.

    “I wasn’t particularly fit, but I can tell you I was in the Ben Johnson league of sprinting with those four lads after me…

    “That kind of verbal abuse is a disgrace, and it’s not in any way acceptable”

    Mr Lenihan, said the incident had rasied his awareness of the pain of racial abuse.  He discussed the incident as part of an interview regarding his new position as Minister for Integration.

    He also told the newspaper that he wanted to introduce citizenship ceremonies that would encourage integration; this would include citizenship tests as well as giving local communities the opportunity to welcome migrants.  He will be focusing much of his efforts at integration in the education system, saying that the battle of integration would be won or lost in the schools.

    The politician said, however, that his new post does not indicate a shift toward greater leniancy in migration policy.

    “There will be no integration without deportation.  I don’t want people to think that just because a new Minister for Integration has been appointed that somehow the doors are going to be flung open and Ireland is going to have open, unrestricted migration”.

    Mr Lenihan had been criticised in 2005 for using a term that was interpreted as an ethnic slur against Turkish workers; he noted during the interview that he had apologised for the incident and did not feel it was an issue in his current job. He also said that he had been defended at the time by members of immigrant ethnic groups.

    Read the articles in the Irish Independent:

    Australia celebrates Paddy’s Day – without a government representative

    Friday, March 16th, 2007

    The Irish in Australia will not be hosting a government minister this Saint Patrick’s Day. First Secretary Aidan Cronin of the Irish Embassy in Canberra said, “This year, for a variety of reasons, it has not been possible to send a minister to represent the Government. We would expect that there would be ministerial representation in future years”.

    One country that will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day in style will be China – Shanghai, the largest city, has been hosting a major week-long festival. Events include the largest exhibition of contemporary Irish art ever held in China as well as Shanghai’s first St Patrick’s Day parade.

    President McAleese pays tribute to emigrant heritage in speech to British Council

    Thursday, March 15th, 2007

    President Mary McAleese has paid tribute to Ireland’s emigrants and immigrants in a speech to the British Council, entitled “The Changing Faces of Ireland – Migration and Multiculturalism”.

    In her speech she noted the contribution of Ireland’s emigrants, from the past through to today:

    The Irish know better than many other races how valuable the emigrants to our shores are. We know these things because of our own extensive history of being emigrants. We are proud of the contribution our emigrants made wherever they went and though the Irish word for exile ‘deoraíocht’ comes from the Irish word for tears, we have lived long enough to see our emigrants and their offspring power their way into every sphere of civic life around the world, first-rate ambassadors for Ireland and effective bridges between Ireland and so many countries and peoples. The success of our emigrants in politics, business, education and the arts inspired our self-belief at home through very fallow periods and their remittances of hard-earned shillings and dollars helped lift the quality of life of their families left at home. In every generation they too have filled the wells of Ireland’s cultural heritage, bringing huge dynamism and fresh imagination – in this generation I think of Thomas Kenneally in Australia, author of Schindler’s List, Tony award-winning playwright Martin Mc Donagh in London, dancer-choreographer extraordinaire Michael Flatley in Chicago and a list that would wrap itself around Ireland several times.

    President McAleese also noted the challenges inherent in developing a vision for a diverse society, but noted that Ireland’s heritage as an emigrant nation would be an asset:

    As one of the world’s great exporters of people, as a culture steeped in the emigrant experience, we have both the challenge now, and the chance, to make the emigrant experience in Ireland something to be truly proud of. We have a written constitution which pledges us to assure the dignity and freedom of the individual. It guides and informs us in formulating the vision we have for our country, a place where it is possible to love Poland, China, Latvia, Nigeria, Somalia and to love Ireland too, to be at home though far from home, to live comfortably within Irish culture and yet be free to showcase and express your own culture, for ultimately these are the great gifts each newcomer brings – the gift of difference and of curiosity. Our gift in return is our welcome for the otherness of others and our acceptance of each as our equal.

    Read the entire speech on the Aras an Uachtarain website.

    Kenny invokes emigrant heritage in immigrant speech

    Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

    Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has stirred some controversy with a speech about immigration.

    Mr Kenny invoked Ireland’s emigrant heritage in his speech, directed at a meeting of the party and its new general election candidates. He said,

    We live in a country that exported our people, not by the boatload, or by the planeload, but by the generation.

    We live in a country where hundreds of thousands of families lived for the postal order that put food on the table and clothes on their backs thanks to a father and often his sons slaving on the building sites of London and New York and San Francisco.

    So it’s safe to say that we live in a country where you’d have to have a very small mind, a very short memory and a very hard heart not to welcome the stranger who is trying to make a better life, a more hopeful life for themselves and their families.

    Mr Kenny went on to call for a debate on immigration, saying that “I believe that immigration and multiculturalism can be good for Ireland but the current system is not being managed well. We need a system that is good for the Irish and good for the immigrants.”

    Mr Kenny added:

    Fine Gael has three priorities to make immigration work for Ireland: Immigrants have rights and responsibilities. They should have the right to be free of discrimination and have their contribution to the country recognised, but they have the responsibility to integrate into our community, comply with our laws and respect our cultural traditions. I do not want to see a situation developing in which our immigrant population live separate lives. We have a responsibility to facilitate and encourage this integration.

    Several commentators have picked up on the fact that Mr Kenny called the Irish a “Celtic and Christian people” and questioned whether these labels apply.

    Read the speech on the Fine Gael website.

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