The year 2011 has ended on an optimistic note for many Irish in America with the prospects of an immigration bill granting new visas giving new hope.
The fact that the bill was drafted by Senator Charles Schumer and has been introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy marks the first time since the successful Morrison visa bill of the 1990s that an Irish immigration bill has been introduced to Congress.
Leahy’s introduction of the bill means that Democrats are behind him on the issue, making it essential that seven to 10 Republican votes be found to pass the magic super majority mark of 60.
Discussion of the bill will resume in January no doubt, but it is heartening to see the reality that at last the Irish lobby has a bill to work on. There is great kudos due to all concerned who have brought it to this point.
The bill at this point is not finalized and it is better to hold off until we hopefully see what it looks like after passage through the Senate.
Either way it is a step in the right direction, and a reason for hope heading into 2011.
There is a sense of urgency about this as there is no question that Irish people will continue to emigrate to the U.S. and other countries into the next year and beyond.
The Irish community in the U.S. does not need more undocumented Irish, especially in these troubled economic times over here, but nonetheless it is very hard to wipe out the historical attraction of America in times of travail for young Irish people.
The dire Irish economic situation is hardly likely to get better in 2012 as the Irish taxpayer, squeezed by tax increases, lower wages and many layoffs struggles to cope.
At some point in 2012 Ireland must seek alleviation from its crushing debt. After all, Greece and very likely Portugal will be forgiven much of their debt, or given easier terms.
Ireland is getting no kudos except pats on the head for being the good guy in Europe, and facing enormous debt problems as a result.
The opportunity may well arise if Ireland gets to vote on the new deal hammered out to solve the crisis last week.
If the new European compact has to pass a referendum in Ireland as it should have to, then debt alleviation simply must be part of a deal or the voters should vote no, simple as that.
The economic morass will occupy the Irish throughout most of 2012 and likely far beyond. But it should not disguise the many positive aspects of the Irish experience.
Tourism, for instance, has made a spectacular comeback, especially form North America. With prices dropping there can be real and sustained growth in that area.
Inward investment, especially from the U.S., has also held up well and may well increase if the euro problem can be solved early in the New Year.
That remains to be seen, and it is the shadow overhanging the world economy right now.
Here in the U.S. we will have what will almost certainly be a closely contested presidential election.
With 40% hardcore GOP and 40% hardcore Democrats, it will be up to the 20% in the middle to decide the race as has become usual.
In key states like Pennsylvania and Ohio it is the Irish Catholic vote which plays a huge role in deciding who the winner of those states will be.
Right now, while voters are unhappy with President Obama, they are hardly enamored of the Republican field either. Their ultimate decision will likely decide who the next president is.
To all our readers and advertisers, a very happy holiday season and great New Year in 2012!