The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) met with Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern on Thursday, May 1 in an effort to heal a recent rift between the parties on the issue of the Irish undocumented immigrants The meeting, which took place at 8 am, comprised of ILIR chairman Niall O'Dowd, Vice-Chairman Ciaran Staunton, Executive Director Kelly Fincham, former Congressman Bruce Morrison, San Francisco board member Bart Murphy and ILIR President Jeff Cleary. From the Irish Government there was Ahern, Secretary General of the Department Dermot Gallagher Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Collins and Foreign Affairs officials. Fincham later described the meeting as "frank and forthright.""We appreciated the fact that we all want to move on and focus on the issue of the undocumented," she said. Fincham promised a closer working relationship with the ILIR and the Irish government including more frequent meetings to maintain a new outlined structure. Fincham said: "There is a complete realization on both our parts that it has to be a joint effort and we will continue to work with the Irish Government on this."Fincham said the ILIR were looking forward to working with the new Taoiseach Brian Cowen on the issue. "The issue is clearly not going away, and, with more people coming out, it has to be a priority," she said, referring to the reported increased number of Irish immigrants by various immigration centers across the U.S.On Wednesday, Staunton, Fincham and Murphy attended Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern's address to congress on the invitation of Congressman Joe Crowley. Fincham said the ILIR were "delighted" that the Taoiseach used his speech to highlight the plight of the undocumented Irish in the United States. "It was a welcomed acknowledgement of the difficulties being faced by Irish citizens in the US." They later attended a reception thrown by house speaker Nancy Pelosi in her chambers where the ILIR had an opportunity to press the issue with various members of Congress. "This was a fantastic chance to meet with some of the senior figures on Capitol Hill,'' said Staunton. "We met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and talked to her for some time about the large amount of undocumented Irish in her own constituency," he said. "She was aware of the role we played in the last battle for comprehensive immigration reform and said that she would be calling us when they pursue it again."The ILIR members also spoke with Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator Patrick Leahy and met with Friends of Ireland members Congressman Joe Crowley, Jim Walsh and chairman Richie Neal.
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