President Michael D Higgins has leant his support to Senator Scott Brown’s E3 visa program – and urged Irish Americans not to forget the famine. The recently elected Irish leader chose his first official visit to Boston to highlight his concerns for the illegal emigrants.
Acknowledging that the president doesn’t get involved in political decisions, Higgins did outline his thoughts on the proposed bill that would allow thousands of Irish to live and work in the US in two-year increments.
He stated: “I don’t get involved in the day-to-day legislation, but obviously I am interested and concerned for all Irish.
“I see myself as a president for all of the Irish at home and abroad, so, yes, of course, I am supportive of anything that helps their situation.
“There are difficulties facing the Irish emigrating to America today. They have Skype now, so the break with home isn’t as severe as it was.
“But if somebody dies at home, or there’s a wedding, they still have real difficulties both exiting and re-entering.”
Returning to Boston – he honeymooned there in the mid-70s – Higgins described the city as the "capital of Irish America."
“Boston is maybe the most Irish of all the cities," Higgins said.
“And I was mayor of Galway twice, and Galway is a huge component of Boston’s Irish population.”
Extending an invitation to Irish America to return home for The Gathering festival in 2013, Higgins also urged them to remember the Famine and its victims as he laid a wreath at the Boston Irish Famine Memorial.
He added: “My message to them about it is, never to forget, but to use our memories in a way that empowers us and that enables us to make an amnesty of the bad part of it.
“The Famine was Ireland’s greatest social calamity. Even today the world struggles to stamp out hunger.
“To international relations, governments, and the institutions which generations place their trust in, it remains one of the great unresolved ethical challenges of our time - the daily needless loss of life to hunger and preventable diseases.”