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Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin: No visa remedy in sight

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Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin, who was in New York for nine days on a ministerial visit, told reporters last Wednesday that there is currently no visa solution available for the Irish undocumented in the U.S.

Martin, who attended a number of high profile meetings at the United Nations, including co-chairing a meeting with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on global hunger, said initially a bilateral approach was discussed with the State Department, including an E3 visa (a potential path to citizenship for qualified undocumented) but “the Hispanic groups made it clear they did not want a unilateral approach for any one group and said they would resist our efforts on the E3 pending comprehensive reform on the situation,” he said.

“I’ve done a number of rounds on the Hill and met with people on both sides of the aisle, but it’s very clear to me that the political situation has not become easier in terms of facilitating comprehensive immigration reform.”

He added, “Now we need to see after November what the political prospects are, and in that context we need to see if there is further work we can do on the bilateral side because I’m very anxious that we avoid a new generation of illegals coming in because it brings heartache, trauma and great difficulty.”

Martin said the obligation of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs is “first and foremost to tell the truth” to people considering a move to the U.S. without a visa.

He added, “We are working well with the State Department now and we will review the 12-month (Irish-U.S. exchange) visa shortly to see if we can enhance and refine it.”

When asked if there is a high number of young Irish people leaving Ireland for U.S. shores, Martin said there is  “no evidence” that migration to the U.S. is “anywhere near the 1980s.”

“Our belief is that we need to be unequivocal and very clear to the young people -- don’t come if your visa situation is not sorted, and don’t breach any sort of laws because there is a lifetime punishment for doing so.”

On the one-year Irish-U.S. exchange visas put in place two years ago, Martin one of the reasons he opted for the agreement is because “I was anxious to develop bilateral frameworks that were legal and gave people genuine opportunities if they wanted to explore other jurisdictions.”  Out of thousands of visas available, though, only several hundred have taken up the offer thus far.

On Monday, September 27, Martin delivered Ireland’s annual address to the UN General Assembly in New York.

Martin outlined Ireland’s foreign policy priorities and discussed international issues of concern for the next year.

Martin said, "The United Nations offers a unique voice and an indispensable framework for the international community which we should cherish and continually work to improve, so as to realize its full potential.

"Ireland, for its part, will continue to look to the United Nations as best placed to lead the drive for more effective multilateralism, as well as for guiding all our common endeavors in pursuit of a more peaceful, prosperous and secure world."

During his U.N. visits Martin also held talks with Ireland’s key trading partners and governments, which share the same views on world affairs.

He also spoke at two major disarmament conferences and conducted a round of bilateral meetings with ministerial colleagues from around the globe and attended a number of strategic groups with E.U. counterparts.

The second major prong of his visit was with the Irish community.

“I had interesting discussions with the immigration centers about various issues and asked the questions, ‘Are there young people coming out? What are the problems they are facing?’ We discovered that now issues people are facing are around welfare and are more complex and demand more time,” Martin told the press.

Martin said the Farmleigh Global Irish Economic Forum that took place in Dublin last year has “broadened the anchors” of the relationship between Ireland and the U.S.

Farmleigh is a government wide initiative managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs in close cooperation with a number of other government departments and state agencies.

Martin described Farmleigh as a “resounding success”.

“Both governments are working side by side to develop more targeting of resources and development issues,” he said.

“We’ve now set up the global Irish networks throughout the world,” he said. “I’ve held meetings in Shanghai where extraordinaire talented people have come to the floor to say, ‘We want to help Ireland. We want to use our contacts and our networks and also our ideas and talents to advise Ireland on how to move forward.

“We have set up networks in Munich, Berlin, Paris and London, and in November we are hosting an American Global Irish Network out here, a Farmleigh event serving North America and Canada.”

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