New York construction sites are once again filled with Irish laborers – around half the workers on any building site today are Irish according to New York human rights commissioner Patricia Gatling, speaking at an event in Dublin’s Trinity College.
Since the collapse of the Irish construction industry, the number of Irish construction workers – which had swelled as building became the largest employer in the country – are now going abroad to find work.
Gatling told The Sunday Tribune that a variety of new Irish business associations have been helping the new immigrants and that it was possible that this would lead to the creation of a new visa scheme.
"If you go to a construction site in the city, half the people working there seem to be Mexican and the other half - who are doing the more skilled work – are Irish," she told the Tribune.
"For the most part, even when the housing market went bust, we were still building in New York. Hotel building there is ongoing and this kind of work is highly sought-after.
According to Gatling, the New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is in favor of legalizing the illegal Irish.
"He has gone to Washington and talked about legalizing all the illegal Irish that have come to New York already," she said. "It has been discussed that the [current visa system] was not fair to them.
"I think there is plenty of room for people to come and work and it's what everyone already says."
Gatling was speaking at a conference to discuss the intersection of business and human rights, which was organized by Colm Kearney and Brian Lucey.