Bush Blocked on Illegals Action

PRESIDENT George W. Bush wanted action on the Irish undocumented but was blocked by his own State Department, according to a source in the Bush administration who has talked to this column.

The source stated that Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern made a very convincing case to Bush to go ahead with an Australian-type visa deal on two separate occasions during meetings with the president at the White House.

The Australian E-3 visa allows 10,000 natives of that country to come and work in America on a renewable non-immigrant visa. The Irish government and the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) have been seeking a similar type of visa deal for Ireland.

On both occasions the president asked his staff to work out the details and go forward with a plan to help Ahern with the issue.

However, on both occasions State Department personnel, worried that other countries might also want the same kind of bilateral exchange, blocked the Irish bid to have it happen.

The original Australia deal was pushed through by then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who cited Australia's support for every war that the U.S. had been involved in.

When it came to Ireland, however, it appears the country lacked a champion at the State Department, and Bush's wishes were not granted.

The information certainly puts in perspective Bush's strong support for Ireland during his presidency, but many will query why he did not insist on delivering the deal.

Conflict Resolution Priority

WHILE in the U.S. last week Ahern stated that he had been offered some outstanding positions involving conflict resolution work with several international organizations.

That is hardly surprising given how successful his work on the Northern Ireland situation has been. Certainly Ireland could well become the new Norway when it comes to intervening in long running conflicts.

The Irish government is increasing its commitment to conflict resolution efforts around the world, Foreign Minster Dermot Ahern told a Capitol Hill conference the day after Bertie Ahern's speech before a Joint Session of Congress.

Ahern was speaking at the event organized by the Washington Irish Program and Cooperation Ireland, which focused on the success of the peace process and Ireland's changing role in the world.

Ahern stated that the Irish government is focusing its initial efforts on Timor Leste, formerly East Timor, where recent violence has created a massive problem for the tiny democracy.

Ahern pointed out that Ireland's experience dealing with security forces may be especially valuable in Timor Leste. The Patten Commission and the successful reform of policing in Northern Ireland has given the government a powerful lesson to point to on how such reform can be achieved.

To that end Ireland is sending former Northern Ireland Police Ombudswoman Nuala O'Loan to Timor Leste to assess the policing situation there and to provide valuable lessons from her own experience of creating the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Lessons from Ireland

DAVID Frum was President Bush's chief speechwriter. He now works for the American Enterprise Institute, a right wing think tank.

He was one of the commentators on the Ahern Joint Session speech on RTE, Ireland's national television station. In the course of his remarks Frum revealed that the lessons of the Irish peace process are being hotly debated in foreign policy circles in Washington.

There are two opposing camps, Frum revealed - those who believe there are many lessons to be learned, and those who believe that Ireland was unique and its lessons would not apply to other conflict areas.

It is an interesting divide, especially at a point where Northern Ireland leaders are meeting Iraqi leaders on a semi-regular basis, and where issues such as Jimmy Carter meeting Hamas are being compared to Bill Clinton meeting with Gerry Adams back when it was a huge political risk for an American president to do so.

Dinner,Conference Clash

THERE is a strange clash between the American Ireland Fund's annual New York dinner this week with the U.S. economic conference in Northern Ireland.

It is surprising that organizers of the Northern Ireland conference allowed it to clash with an event such as the Ireland Fund dinner that attracts every major Irish business leader in America.

Sources say the clash was unavoidable as it was the only time that the Northern Ireland event could be held. Still, it sure makes for an unfortunate coincidence at a time when Northern Ireland needs all the help it can get.

The theme of the Ireland Fund dinner will be "New Island, New Generation," and actor Liam Neeson will be one of the honorees. The other will be the late Lew Glucksman, husband of Loretta Brennan Glucksman, president of the American Ireland Fund. It promises to be the usual great night.

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