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Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny Photo by: Google Image

Irish leader says comprehensive immigration reform likely dead

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Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny Photo by: Google Image

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has promised to make every effort to bring about immigration reform which would allow more Irish to emigrate legally to America and help those living here undocumented.

Given that comprehensive reform looks ever more difficult other avenues would be explored he said. Speaking to Irish America Magazine Kenny stated that the E3 visa program which would allow 10,000 Irish a year to work legally in America will be a major priority for his government. The E3 is a non immigrant visa which allows workers in for two year periods that can be renewed.

Kenny stated; “Obviously the changed situation on the Hill (since the last election) 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 incident in Pakistan and 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 going to continue to work with Democrats and Republicans on the Hill in that regard.
Here are extracts from the rest of the interview:

What's it like to lead a party change during such a tumultuous time?

It's be been like a tornado really in the last 8 weeks. The ending of the general election campaign, the formation of the new government and unveiling the economic challenges that the country faces.

I see a number of priorities. Abraham Lincoln used to say, tell the people the truth and the country is in safe hands. To unearth the scale of the economic challenge in the country has taken some time.  No government in the history of our State faces the scale of the economic challenge that I face, and yet there has never been a time of better opportunity. to deal with certain things that are wrong with out country and that's what we are about.

So we want to set about demonstrating that we are serious, -- a new government with a different set of priorities -- no messing here. We want to end the confusion and provide certainty.  That's why we have made decisive decisions about the banks.  That's why we are focusing on investment in jobs as a priority. And that's why we are dealing with a restoration of good health to our public finances.

This is not easy.  There are challenging times ahead for our people. but Irish people have always been pragmatic and when they understand the scale of the challenge. The want to and are willing to have a government leading them to sort these things out.

We have made decisions with the banks.

What are those decisions?

We had six dysfunctional banks. We went through a series of very strenuous stress tests and the government decided to have two pillar banks -- Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank and from that point of view we required them to set out their plans -- to have a core element, which is Irish interest and non core, which is abroad and to dispose of those by de-leveraging that provides credit for business. We are following that will a whole series of issues about governance of banks. That those who have been responsible before will remove themselves or be removed and we will ask the people in referendum to give us the authority, through parliamentary inquiry, to  determine the facts of what actually happened in many of these cases.

Next week we are continuing our drive to ensure confidence by providing a job's initiative so that it is going to be easier for employers to take on new employees, to remove obstacles by way of tax restrictions on employment.

To have a situation where a partial loan guarantee is given so that credit may be made available because people are crying out to for the opportunity to change direction, to invest in their businesses. People are tired of the recession and want to get through it, so from that point of view there is great hope and great optimism and great good will because the government are clearly intent on demonstrating that they are serious about sorting out our difficulties and meeting our challenges.

What about the thoughts of some global financial leaders that Ireland is going to default?

I don't accept that.  The exchequer returns were released yesterday for the end of April, show that in the four major areas of tax -- excise, VAT,  corporate tax and income tax we are running $600 million ahead of target. That's an indication of confidence.  It is not the end result that we want because we are locked in to a bail out deal with the IMF (International Monitory Fund) and EU (European Union) but within those constraints that's an indication that and a demonstration that we can meet our targets and that we will meet our targets.

And I've made this point on so many occasions, we want less money from Europe but greater flexibility. And the big challenge for the government is to get to a point where we can go back to those bond markets as a country and borrow money at less interest rates and wave goodbye to the IMF and be in charge of our economic destiny again. And that is a challenge that we will not shirk that we will not turn our backs on.

Do you think you will be able to hold on to the corporate tax rate?

Yes, I do.  This is a matter of national competence. When President Sarkozy was president of the council before the second Lisbon referendum, he made it clear and it was added in as a declaration to that Treaty that tax is a matter of national competence and that remains the case.  Ireland will not be moving from its 12 and a half percent corporate tax rate.  We will play our part by other decisions in measuring up to our challenges in the European sense and we have made that very clear to our European colleagues, with whom we have good working relationships and we will continue to do so in the future.

Aside from political change, what do you think can be done to improve the national psyche right now?

I think the fact that the people have their say in a general election and decimated the previous government was a lancing of that boil and that frustration.  I think we have taken a series of decisions about reducing ministerial pay, about taking away state cars from people, about limiting the spend in elections, about putting an end to corporate donations.  These are perception things but they are important. 

On the bigger decisions where we are moving decisively to deal with banks, our economic problems and our job creation programs, we are showing people that we are delivering on the mandate that they gave to us.

 And that is the most encouraging and the most confidence-building measure that we can take to influence the national psyche.  And in that sense, our Irish diaspora, both in the States and Australia and around the world, are in constant contact with our country.

Our exports have been been running at a surplus for the last 21 months. We have very many of the global leaders [corporations] in the country. So what we are doing now is directing our attention at stimulating our indigenous economy.  We have a very high savings ratio -- people were afraid to spend money because they saw no certainty for the future. 

We are going to provide that certainty and encouragement for people to get back spending. There's great value now for construction, for tourism or for investment.  So while it is a challenging time, it is also a brilliant opportunity to change the structure of the way government actually delivers for its people and the way it supervises the effectiveness of public monies being spent for the provision of services  -- get on and demonstrate that we are lean, efficient and forward thinking.  So through this austerity program -- the end of it -- I see the sun on the far shore and better times ahead.

You did mention at one point -- the idea of an immigrant senator [who would represent the diaspora] is that something you would consider ?

I think the fact that you 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.

In terms of legal emigration to America, which is very difficult will you be talking to anyone here about that?

Yes, and I want to follow through on this.

In terms of your visit to Ground Zero, why did you feel it was important to go there and what were your impressions?

It's a very different site than obviously than after 9/11.  As a student I visited the Trade Towers on a number of different occasions in the seventies. It's a very different site now. Actually when you stand on the reviewing platform down there, it's a very congested 16-acre site now because the seven buildings are actually under construction. It's hard to imagine the scale of the slaughter and mayhem that occurred on 9/11 and when you see it in its current form.  I know President Obama is going down there tomorrow.  So, it's a nostalgic time for American citizens, it's also not confined to New York because of the terrorist activities of Al Queda in Bali, and Madrid and London. [But] here in New York [you have] those people who lost loved ones we will reflect on that over the next two days and I'm sure it will cause some very painful memoriesIncluding a lot of Irish.

There were 12 who were born in Ireland who lost their lives and so many more Irish Americans who were firemen and Port Authority officers and went through loss of life. I remember reading an account of what happened on 9/11 and 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, 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'm 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 and it all depends on his schedule if he has time play, and if not this time, the next time. I'll be practising.

Taoiseach thank you so much.

Read More: Enda Kenny to stump for Ireland in New York

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