Dáil debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

11:00 am

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)

Immigration reform is obviously a matter of some considerable importance to us. I know many people who have found themselves in that position for a number of years. The answer to everybody's problem would be comprehensive immigration legislation, which is very difficult, given the scale of what is involved and the number of nationalities involved in a country the size of the US. It has been on the agenda for quite some time. The previous President made attempts to push it through, but it did not happen.

The current focus of attention is on the Australian E-3 visa for Irish nationals. This might release an amount of pressure that is building up here. There have been attempts to introduce a number of Bills in the US Congress, but they all failed. I raised this matter with President Obama, the Irish ambassador and the Vice President, who has connections with Ireland. For many people involved in this, it is an issue of increasing interest. A number of those who left before the dates mentioned by the Deputy find themselves in isolation in huge conurbations, and there is a growing need to look after many of these elderly people. With enforced emigration again being a factor, this is an issue for young people as well. We will keep it on the agenda and hope that the E-3 visa system becomes a reality soon. With the change in political circumstances on Capitol Hill, it is not going to be as easy to get comprehensive legislation as it might have been in the past.

I did not have an opportunity to speak to Representative Peter King at any great length. These meetings do not lend themselves to long discussions, but the issue of his comments about American Muslims were a matter of discourse in the New York area.

There was a sense of excitement among Irish American businesses about rebuilding strong links with our country, investing and creating jobs in Ireland. That is something I would like to work on, because American business interests were focused clearly on the retention of our corporate tax rate at 12.5% in respect of employment and investment opportunities. It was a great opportunity to make these connections, reinforce our traditional links with the United States and continue to build on them for the future.

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