Irish Fine Gael politician James “Jimmy” Deenihan T.D., the Minister of State for the Diaspora, visited Boston last month during a four-day, two-city American visit that featured immigration talks in Washington with members of Congress, Irish American business leaders, and organizations thaty support Irish citizens.
When he was in Boston, the five-time All Ireland GAA football champion, who is 63 and a member of the Irish parliament, visited the Irish Pastoral Centre in Dorchester, the Irish International Immigrant Center downtown, and the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton. He also visited the soon-to-open EM Kennedy Institute at Columbia Point and the Boston College Irish Institute in Chestnut Hill.
In Washington, he met with Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate who now chairs the House Ways and Means committee, and with Bay State members of Congress Richard Neal and Joe Kennedy to discuss immigration reform, Ireland’s economic recovery and the continued progress in Northern Ireland.
Speaking ahead of the visit Deenihan said, “This visit is a great opportunity to discuss progress on President Obama’s announcement on immigration reform in November. While we warmly welcomed the measures announced, we will continue to press for substantive action by Congress to ensure a long-term sustainable solution for the undocumented Irish in the United States.
“The Irish community in the US have waited a long time for progress on this issue. The government is committed to working hard to secure improved channels for legal migration between Ireland and America to reflect the concerns and needs of the Irish community. We will ensure that immigration reform remains firmly at the top of the agenda.”
The Irish Times has noted that ‘it’s estimated that thousands among the government’s estimate of 50,000 illegal Irish in the US will benefit. Mr. Deenihan said so-called undocumented Irish should start preparing the paperwork required to avail of the temporary relief from deportation afforded by Mr Obama.
“ ‘People should embrace the opportunity that the Obama initiative will give them, and that they will not miss the opportunity,’ he said. He said it would be premature to say that qualifying illegal Irish would be able to return freely to Ireland before the Irish Ambassador to the US, Anne Anderson, receives clarification from the State Department on the circumstances under which eligible immigrants could travel.
The Times added, “That is what we want of course to result from the actions, but I don’t want to be building up people’s hopes yet,” he said.
In a Jan. 23 meeting in Boston, Deenihan said he looked forward to welcoming Congressman Ryan to a visit to Ireland in the spring. He added he has plans to host a gathering of elected officials with Irish links from all over the world to a special session later this year. He said currently the plans are to host the global elected officials in the Dáil in late August.