Ireland's New Prime Minister on the Way Forward
On his recent trip to New York, between visiting Ground Zero and being welcomed at an Irish American community reception, Ireland’s new Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, spoke with Patricia Harty about the changes taking place in the Irish government.
You mentioned, at one point, the idea of a senator who would represent those who have emigrated from Ireland. Is that something you would consider?
I think the fact that we have such an enlightened diaspora – on the last occasion that my party tried to do this, one of our senators was willing to give up his seat in the Senate providing that the diaspora organizations were able to agree on a nominated candidate. Unfortunately, they were not able to agree, so it never happened. I’ve got the opportunity as Taoiseach to make a number of appointments to the Senate in the next couple of weeks and I’m going to give consideration to that.
Will you be talking to politicians about the difficulties of emigrating to the U.S.?
Yes, and I want to follow through on this. Obviously the changed situation “on the Hill,” as they say in Washington, means that you are not going to have comprehensive immigration legislation in the near future. I do note the words of President Obama himself, where he said that he would work with all organizations, including Republicans, in respect of the immigration challenge. Now since the death of Osama Bin Laden, obviously the vigilance in terms of American borders will increase. And I think, perhaps out of this, might come a renewed reflection on the way both Republicans and Democrats, whom I can’t speak for, obviously, will look at the question of comprehensive immigration. If that’s not to be the case, Ireland will pursue and continue to pursue, the well-being of our Irish diaspora here through the E3 Visa situation, which provides some degree of certainty for those who are here, with an opportunity to renew visas. And I’m going to see to it that we continue to work with Democrats and Republicans on the Hill in that regard.
You just came from Ground Zero. Why did you feel it was important to go there and what were your impressions?
It’s a very different site, obviously, than after 9/11. When you stand on the reviewing platform you see a very congested 16-acre site now because seven buildings are actually under construction. It’s hard to imagine the scale of the slaughter and mayhem that occurred on 9/11 when you see it in its current form. I know President Obama is going down there tomorrow [May 5]. So, it’s a nostalgic time for American citizens, it’s also not confined to New York because of the terrorist activities of Al Qaeda in Bali, and Madrid and London. Those people who lost loved ones, and we will reflect on that over the next days and I’m sure it will cause some very painful memories for people.
Including a lot of Irish.
There were 12 who were born in Ireland who lost their lives and so many more Irish-American firemen and Port Authority officers. I remember reading an account of what happened on 9/11 at the Twin Towers, and I remember someone describing the courage on the faces of the young men going to rescue those who were trapped, and it wasn’t the courage on their faces coming down, it was the courage on their faces going up into those burning towers.
Are you looking forward to President Obama’s visit to Ireland?
Absolutely, I think it’s a brilliant opportunity. I’m so glad that the President has confirmed that he is coming, along with his First Lady. We will give them a real Irish welcome. They will be very, very welcome visitors to Ireland. His visit will follow, in such a short time, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland. It’s a brilliant opportunity for Ireland. And I must say, having met with him in the White House, and him having been so generous with his time, I really do look forward to it. My one [wish] – and I’m not sure if it’s going to happen or not – but I did challenge him to a game of golf. It all depends on his schedule if he has time to play, and if not this time, the next time. I’ll be practicing.
Taoiseach, thank you so much.
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