Billy Lawless,the first ever emigrant Irish senator in the Irish senate, has come under strong criticism because of his ties to current Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Kenny appointed him to the Irish Upper House as one of 11 nominees on Friday last.
The Irish Mail on Sunday in what they termed a front page “exclusive “revealed that Lawless, who owns several top flight restaurants in Chicago, had hired Kenny’s daughter on a summer work visa and that there was a very close relationship between the two men who were pictured together during the recent election. Lawless campaigned for Fine Gael and is a former candidate for the party who moved to Chicago 16 years ago.
Irish emigrant groups and the Irish government often clash on priorities such as emigrant votes and if Lawless is seen as in the Kenny camp it could be very damaging.
”A government yes man will not cut it in emigrant politics, we need someone who can fight” said one emigrant leader.
Meanwhile, another criticism of Lawless has emerged from Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, a Sinn Fein senator, who claimed that Lawless was “a fundraiser” for Fine Gael in America.
Lawless however strongly denies the claim. “I am not a fundraiser for Fine Gael in the United States and never have been,” said Lawless.
“My constituency will be the undocumented Irish in the US and[campaigning for] voting rights in presidential elections for Irish citizens living abroad.”
Lawless said he got a call from Enda Kenny “out of the blue” on Friday offering him a seat in the Seanad, which he was honored to accept.
Lawless had close ties to the Obama administration and introduced the president at an immigration rally in 2014.