Leo Varadkar appoints John Deasy as special US envoy

Waterford TD will look after interests of undocumented Irish following concerns

John Deasy TD will work with the Irish embassy in Washington DC and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. Photograph:  Cyril Byrne

John Deasy TD will work with the Irish embassy in Washington DC and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has appointed Waterford TD John Deasy as a special envoy to the United States Congress to work for undocumented Irish.

Mr Deasy, who will report to Mr Varadkar on the issue, will work with the Irish embassy in Washington DC and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin.

Mr Deasy said people are “very concerned” with the immigration policies being pursued by President Donald Trump.

The Government, he said, “understands the concerns” of its citizen. He will work to look after the interests of the undocumented Irish and lobby for immigration reform for Irish citizens in the United States.

There was surprise in Leinster House when Mr Deasy was not given a junior ministerial post by the Taoiseach in recent weeks.

Mr Deasy will not be given any extra money for his new role, although his travel expenses will be paid.

Mr Deasy, who was a long-time critic of former taoiseach Enda Kenny, supported Mr Varadkar in the Fine Gael leadership contest.

First priority

Sources said Mr Deasy’s first priority will be to ensure that undocumented Irish are not “locked up” as part of an overall clampdown on immigration. It is understood it could also expand to encompass moves to protect Irish interests when Mr Trump and Congress pursues taxation reform.

He has extensive contacts with politicians in Washington from time spent working as a staffer for Republican members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. He was also involved in drafting the original VISA waiver programme during his time working in Congress during the 1990s.

Announcing the role, Mr Varadkar said Mr Deasy, as well as his 15 years in the Dáil, “also has extensive experience in the US Congress, including working on immigration reform legislation”.

“He will bring that experience and his network of contacts to augment the extensive efforts already undertaken by the Government and Embassy to bring about reforms to assist the undocumented Irish. ”

The Department of Foreign Affairs last month urged undocumented Irish “to remain calm” after a prominent Donegal man living illegally for 18 years in Boston was arrested for immigration violations.

John Cunningham (38), who has been undocumented in the US since 1999, was arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials at a private residence in Boston.