Pelosi to lead US delegation to Ireland amid push for visa deal

Speaker of House of Representatives to visit Border and meet Taoiseach later in month

US speaker Nancy Pelosi: renewed efforts to seal a landmark American visa deal for Irish citizens. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

US speaker Nancy Pelosi: renewed efforts to seal a landmark American visa deal for Irish citizens. Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

 

A high-powered US congressional delegation is to visit Ireland this month amid renewed efforts to seal a landmark American visa deal for Irish citizens and ongoing Brexit uncertainty.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Richard Neal, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, and others are expected to visit the Border.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will meet the group in Government Buildings during their visit and will also host a dinner, his spokesman said.

The Ways and Means Committee will oversee any future, post-Brexit trade deal between the US and UK and Mr Neal was one of a number of congressional figures who wrote to prime minister Theresa May last month warning about the potential consequences of a hard Border in Ireland.

He was also one of the sponsors of a Bill which last year sought to secure access for Irish citizens to the E3 visa scheme, a two-year renewable programme currently only available to Australians. The Bill did not garner sufficient support in the US Senate and is expected to be tabled again in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.

John Deasy, the Government’s envoy to the US Congress, said it was made clear to Mr Varadkar and the Irish delegation during the St Patrick’s Day programme in Washington that work will continue on the E3 plan.

‘St Patrick’s Day meeting’

“It was clear from our meetings around St Patrick’s Day that both the Republican and Democratic leadership offices want to continue to pursue the E3 Bill,” the Waterford TD said.

“Both Speaker Pelosi and president [Donald] Trump told us they are behind efforts to get this finished and congressman Neal is one of its driving forces in the House. The congressional delegation visiting Ireland is an important step in continuing that process.”

The delegation will spend a number of days in Ireland from April 15th and is also expected to visit Northern Ireland.

Mr Neal, the co-chairman of the congressional Friends of Ireland caucus, has said he supports a future US-UK trade deal, but warned the British ambassador to Washington and the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer that there could be no return to a hard Border.

‘Good Friday’ agreement

“America is a guarantor of the Good Friday agreement, and we don’t want to see any fractures. The idea that there would be any sort of tactical retreat on the border is unacceptable here.”

The congressional delegation, or CODEL, will also meet members of the Oireachtas. A recently planned CODEL trip led by Ms Pelosi to Afghanistan, Egypt and Brussels was stopped by Mr Trump during a dispute with congressional Democrats earlier this year.

He vetoed the use of military aircraft by Ms Pelosi during a row over funding for a wall on the US-Mexican border. The dispute led to a government shutdown in the US.

“CODEL visits occur on an occasional basis, and are an important opportunity to deepen Ireland-US political relations,” Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said.