Taoiseach to raise undocumented Irish with Obama

Coalition prepared to negotiate but not in a position to be ‘aggressive’ on immigration

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will this morning raise the issue of undocumented Irish with US president Barack Obama but will not adopt an "aggressive stance" with the American administration.

Mr Kenny said his Government would negotiate but was not in a position to dictate to the American administration on the issue of immigration reform. He referenced Republican control of Congress.

New York-based publisher Niall O'Dowd recently called for pressure to be put on the US Government, adding that it did not respond to politicians "being nice".

“I don’t agree that arriving up on Capitol Buildings and being very aggressive is going to yield any more beneficial results,” said Mr Kenny on Monday. “And I understand that Niall O’Dowd has a long experience of dealing with this, but politicians have to negotiate with each other.”

Mr Kenny said the most important thing for undocumented Irish was to ensure they could travel to Ireland and back to the US while a "path to legitimacy or legalisation" was being formulated.

Pointing to the current balance of power in the US, Mr Kenny said: “There’s a new administration obviously here in the States now with the Republicans in charge in the Senate and in the House, as it were.”

The Taoiseach will take part in a bilateral meeting at the White House with President Obama at 10.30am, following a meeting with US vice-president Joe Biden. He will present both men with a hamper of popular Irish foodstuffs.

Mr Kenny also spoke about the next domestic budget after attending a private meeting at the US Chamber of Commerce.

He said the budget would not be a “giveaway” and the State needed to build up financial reserves, or “buffers”, in order to deal with any external “shocks” that might occur.

He was responding to a report in The Irish Times on Monday stating that Tánaiste and Labour leader Joan Burton is pushing for the European Commission to ease back on rigid fiscal rules which would limit the scope for a generous October budget.

Unexpected shocks

“Let me be clear, the budget in October is not going to be one where there’s a whole series of giveaways. We don’t have the capacity to do that,” said Mr Kenny. “It’ll be slow and measured in terms of the progress that we’ve made with a very clear understanding that we are not going back to the days of what caused the problem, boom and bust politics.

“What we need to do is to put in buffers for unexpected shocks that might occur in the future, that might be outside our control.”

On the subject of immigration reform, Mr Kenny expressed sympathy with the plight of undocumented Irish people in the US.

“The reason that they’re undocumented is that many of them might have overstayed their welcome on ordinary visas or whatever, but it’s the human consequences of that that interest me,” he said. “And you know the stories of people who have died at home and those who are here can’t go back.”

Mr Kenny said those stories would form part of the case the Government would make to the US administration in the hope that a process to help so-called illegals could be secured.

“The really important thing from an Irish point of view is that once a process is put in place that our people would have the opportunity to be able to travel over and back while that path to legitimacy or legalisation is actually achieved.”