Seanad debates

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

2:30 pm

Photo of Billy LawlessBilly Lawless (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I take this opportunity to thank the Taoiseach, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, and the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, for their committed support for this referendum and for the global Irish. I am sure that whatever Government is in place following the general election will not forget about and will continue to lobby on behalf of the undocumented Irish. That is one of the main reasons I was appointed to this House. There is a very toxic situation in the United States at present with regard to immigration, but we have to keep fighting for them and keep them in our minds. They have not gone away. Most of them cannot ever come home. It is a very serious situation.

I pay great credit to the Government's special envoy to the United States Congress, Deputy John Deasy, with whom I have been working very closely for the past two years to secure E3 visas for Ireland. The negotiations with both Houses of Congress have sometimes been fraught, but with the assistance of the embassy in Washington, Deputy Deasy and I have been successful in introducing a Bill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, to be voted on shortly. It is held up at the moment because the impeachment trial has started in the Senate today. Its passage would mean between 4,000 and 5,000 visas for Ireland annually. We have not had a visa increase in the past 35 years. It would be a major achievement.I am very confident that we have bipartisan support for the Bill. It would be a great boost for us.

I will end by extending my very best wishes to my fellow Seanadóirí - those who will be seeking re-election, those who are seeking election to the Thirty-third Dáil and those who are retiring. I hope they and their families will have every happiness in their lives.

I hope I will be remembered for more than just being the Senator who lifted the ban on pubs opening on Good Friday. I especially thank all the staff of the Dáil and the Seanad who assisted me in making that happen. I wish everyone the very best of luck. It has been a privilege to have met and worked with everybody.


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