Billy Lawless, the Galway-born restaurateur now based in Chicago, has been named by Irish leader Enda Kenny as one of his nominations to the Irish senate, the upper house of the Irish legislature roughly equivalent to the British House of Lords .
It is the first time an emigrant senator has been named. Lawless, a member of Fine Gael, who ran for the party and canvassed for them in the recent election was made a Freeman of Galway last year for his efforts to help Irish immigrants become legal in America.
President Obama was introduced by Lawless at an immigration rally in Chicago in 2014. In his remarks Lawless stated how he and his wife and four kids moved to Chicago 18 years ago. “We really wanted to see if we could succeed in the United States and live the American Dream,” he told the audience of 18,000 people.
So delighted to see VotingRights.ie cofounder Billy Lawless appointed to the Seanad - A tireless advocate for the Irish abroad!— VotingRights.ie (@VotingRightsIE) May 27, 2016
He said he now owned four pubs and employed 260 people.
“This is what we emigrants do,” he stated.
Obama said Lawless and his son Billy, who also runs the restaurants, exemplified what he was trying to do empowering immigrants.
“Together they have gone from employing 10 workers to employing more than 250 workers and you just heard what Billy said: ‘This is what immigrants do.’”
Lawless has been a stalwart worker on behalf of the city of Galway and on behalf of Irish immigrants, and the Irish in the United States over a number years. A prominent business figure in Galway’s sister city of Chicago it is his work as an immigration advocate that has brought him to attention in political and media circles in Chicago and in Washington DC. He is Chair of Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform and is also a board member and co-founder of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition and fights tirelessly for immigration reform.
He has been Co-Chair of the Chicago Galway Sister Cities Committee for a number of years and has supported and facilitated a number of projects including the Grainne Sculpture in Chicago donated to the City of Chicago by the City of Galway a number of years ago and recently oversaw the reciprocal gifting of the Umbrellas for Peace sculpture in the grounds of City Hall
Billy Lawless is a native of Rahoon, Galway where his family were involved in dairy farming, supplying milk to households in the city.
The sitting Prime Minister is allowed to nominate 11 people to the senate a mixture of party members and outstanding individuals. Among those named is Joan Freeman, head of Pieta House which counsels suicidal youths and adults.
IRL: Great decision to nominate Billy Lawless to Seanad. Hugely influential player in immigration reform in Chicago across all communities— Robbie Gilligan (@RobbieGilligan) May 27, 2016
Thrilled that @nuigalway honorary graduate and great advocate for the Irish in the US, Billy Lawless, has been appointed to Seanad Éireann!— Larry Donnelly (@LarryPDonnelly) May 27, 2016