TAOISEACH (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern recently gave an interview to Irish television in which he talked about what a great honor it will be to give an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on April 30. We couldn't agree more. Ahern deserves the honor both on his own behalf and for all that Ireland means to the U.S.
His work on the peace process and creating the Celtic Tiger will be his legacy, and Americans deserve to know of the accomplishments that Ireland has achieved in the past decade or so.
Ahern talked about many things in the interview, the impact of American investment and now Irish investment in the U.S., and the extraordinary ties that bind the U.S. and Ireland.
He also mentioned the amazing contribution to the Irish peace process of the Clintons and Senator Edward Kennedy to name a few.
We were disappointed, however, that Ahern never mentioned the Irish undocumented issue in his remarks. We know the joint address will be to a packed Congress and will need to be upbeat, but it is important for Ahern to know that thousands of Irish undocumented immigrants in America will be watching and listening too.
After the collapse of the comprehensive immigration reform bill last year, Ahern and his government are in many ways their last real hope of achieving legal status in the U.S.
Ahern is certainly knowledgeable on the issue. He has discussed the situation of the undocumented Irish with Irish American leaders on many occasions, and they have always been struck by his sure grasp of the plight the undocumented find themselves in.
Which is why we were all disappointed when he spoke to the Dail (Irish Parliament) a few weeks ago and basically stated little could be done for the undocumented.
We happen to disagree with that, and the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform has put forward proposals to the contrary.
We believe the Irish government, with a lot of help from those same power brokers Ahern praised for their help on the North, could fashion a solution to the problem.
Now we know some people have said that the Irish have no right to seek a solution for their own. To that we say, clearly, nonsense!
Last week Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced that he was seeking a bilateral treaty for his countrymen in America with the U.S. government. Australia, Singapore and Chile all succeeded in getting their own deals. None of them enjoy the clout Ahern does in the U.S.
We hope Calderon succeeds. His people have suffered greatly during this anti-immigrant era.
Irish people have suffered to. Just a few weeks back a young Irishman in Boston died of pneumonia because he was afraid to go to hospital to be treated because he was undocumented.
Ahern is a humane and decent man who has spent his life in unselfish service of his country. He must know what it would mean to thousands of Irish here and their families at home if he really took up their cause to become legal.
As we're at it we'd love to mention one more thing. There were wonderful pictures from Dublin of Americans voting in their own elections over the Super Tuesday period. We have also seen pictures of Poles and others voting in their own election while living in Ireland.
Wouldn't it be great and it would mean so much to Irish abroad if there was a way of recognizing them too in Irish elections? Maybe an emigrant senator to deal with their concerns? Just a thought for Ahern when he makes his speech before Congress.