US immigration reform campaigner to run for Seanad

Ciaran Staunton becomes third Irish person living abroad to run for election next month

Ciaran Staunton speaking at a US Senate hearing on sepsis in 2013, following his son’s death from the infection in 2012. Photograph: rorystauntonfoundationforsepsis.org

Ciaran Staunton speaking at a US Senate hearing on sepsis in 2013, following his son’s death from the infection in 2012. Photograph: rorystauntonfoundationforsepsis.org

 

Long-time campaigner for US immigration reform, Ciaran Staunton, has been nominated by Sinn Féin as an independent candidate and “voice for the diaspora” in the Seanad elections.

He is the third Irish person living abroad to announce they are running for the elections next month.

Mr Staunton, who has been living in the US since the 1980s, was involved in the campaign which resulted in the Morrison Visa programme, which allowed thousands of Irish citizens to live legally in the US in the 1990s.

He was also a founding member of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, an organisation set up in 2005 to campaign for the regularisation of the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish living in the US.

As well as acting as a voice for the undocumented, Mr Staunton told The Irish Times he wanted to represent the hundreds of thousands of recent emigrants, as well as their families left behind in Ireland.

“People overseas have no voice. 300,000 left since the demise of the tiger. Who is looking out for them? Who is keeping track of where are they going and what are they doing?”

Citing the Government’s recent #HomeToWork campaign, which sought to encourage recent emigrants to return to live in Ireland, Mr Staunton said the Irish abroad needed an independent representative who would campaign on their behalf, and tell them the truth about issues concerning them.

“No one stood up and said, do not be misleading people telling people to come home to work when there are no jobs here. Someone should have been able to say to people abroad, this is a political campaign, it is not reality.”

Local communities have been “savaged by emigration” and they need someone to represent them on that issue alone, he said.

“There are empty chairs at the table in many Irish homes because of forced emigration. Who is representing those families and their concerns about their loved ones abroad, and their loved ones concerns about their families they have left behind?”

Announcing Mr Staunton’s nomination to the Commercial and Industrial panel, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said Mr Staunton “has been a vocal and effective champion for Irish immigrants for almost 30 years”.

“Sinn Féin believes that much more must be done to develop and strengthen our relationship with the diaspora. This objective can be enhanced with a strong dedicated voice in the Oireachtas; someone who will fight for the rights of the undocumented in the USA; for votes for Irish citizens living abroad; for improved connectedness between the island of Ireland and our diaspora; and for a united Ireland. I believe that Ciaran Staunton has the experience and commitment to be that voice.”

Since his nomination on Monday, Mr Staunton has called other party leaders, including acting Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, asking for all-party support.

“Emigration is the one issue which is non-partisan,” he said.

Following the death of their 12-year-old son Rory from sepsis in 2012, Mr Staunton and his wife set up the Rory Staunton Foundation to raise awareness and improve diagnosis of sepsis. This resulted in the adoption of “Rory’s Regulations” in New York State in 2013, which require hospitals to adopt best practices for the early identification and treatment of sepsis.

Mr Staunton joins two other candidates running for the Seanad from abroad this year.

Ed Davitt, a 35-year-old from Dublin who has been working for an environmental NGO in Brussels for four years, will stand as an independent candidate on the Trinity College panel.

Barry Johnston, a Roscommon man working in human rights advocacy in London, will also run as an independent candidate on the NUI panel.

Mr Davitt and Mr Johnston are running to represent emigrants, and to campaign for voting rights for Irish citizens living overseas.

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