President Michael D Higgins has urged America to make the most of the new wave of emigrants forced abroad by the collapse of the Celtic Tiger.

Speaking at an Irish community center in Oak Forest on the outskirts of Chicago, the President also praised the role of the GAA in Irish American life.

President Higgins said that while many new emigrants to the United States feel a sense of loss at leaving Ireland, they are highly skilled and have opportunities to use those skills after emigrating.

Speaking at Gaelic Park, he told the Irish Times: “There was never any one kind of Irish migrant coming to the United States.

“Many of the Irish who are coming now do feel a wrench and a sense of loss having to leave their family, their parish, their locality, but they are very highly qualified and carry very high skills - and they get opportunities here to put those skills into practice.

“There is a two-way flow with US companies employing about 110,000 people in Ireland and Irish companies with their US headquarters in the Chicago area employing about 60,000 Americans.

“Irish and American companies share the challenge of creating jobs to offer life opportunities to highly skilled people wherever they are.

“As President I want to express in practical ways that the Irish Diaspora is a network that helps people in their immediate needs and in mapping out futures which we can share together.”

Due to meet Illinois governor Pat Quinn on Monday, President Higgins was greeted at Gaelic Park by young football and hurling players wearing county jerseys before attending an Irish community Mass.

The President told the Irish Times that Irish centers like Gaelic Park were ‘incredibly important in helping the “new Irish arriving in a strange city find something that is very much of your own experience.’

He added: “The GAA is one of the most obvious places connecting Irish emigrants to people they will realize easily.

“It is a great assurance for a start. It is a form of shelter for people in difficulties.”

John Devitt, the president of Gaelic Park, left Ireland for the US in 1975.

He told the paper that the recent wave of Irish emigrants was different in that they had third-level degrees and professional experience.

He said: “They are carrying computers and degrees rather than hods of bricks, chainsaws or paint brushes.”