US immigration reform remains a key issue for the Irish government, according to Ireland's new Minister for the Diaspora.

During a visit to the US, Jimmy Deenihan, who was recently appointed to the role of Minister of State at the Departments of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs and Trade with special responsibility for the Diaspora, outlined his commitment to facilitating legal migration between Ireland and the US.

He made his pledge as the addressed the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians Convention in St Louis, Missouri, last Thursday.

And he stressed that making a breakthrough for the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US remains a top priority for the Irish government.

He said: "The issue of US immigration reform has been and will remain a key priority for the Irish government here in the United States.

"Our objectives are to achieve some relief for the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish here, as well as for their families and friends at home in Ireland, and to make legal migration between Ireland and America easier."

Minister Deenihan thanked the national leaderships of the AOH [Ancient Order of Hibernians] and Ladies AOH for their help in underpinning the point that Ireland has a stake in immigration reform.

However, he stressed there was still much work to be done to establish a workable solution.

He said: "We have all been disappointed that greater progress has not yet proved possible in Congress. But I firmly believe that none of the work undertaken by the government, the AOH and others from Irish America have been in vain.

"AOH support, involvement and engagement have been crucial and will be even more so when further opportunities next arise in Congress, as they will surely do. For now, we are aware that President Obama and his Administration are looking at the scope for action on immigration via executive authority."

In his address Minister Deenihan also briefed the AOH on the government's plans to bring forward a new Diaspora strategy in the fall.

He added:"The government does a lot of things well in its engagement with the Diaspora and I want to bring those things together in a coherent strategy for the future.

"The Irish Diaspora is diverse. Irish America is an indispensable part of the Diaspora and the AOH is an indispensable part of Irish America. I want to hear views on how we can deepen our engagement with Irish America."ends