Tim Pat Coogan
Writer and historian Tim Pat Coogan has slammed the U.S. Embassy in Dublin as “Kafkaesque” in their dealing with Irish citizens when they apply for visas.

Coogan’s comments come after U.S. Ambassador Dan Rooney defended the consular staff and how they treat individuals.

The exchange comes after Coogan was denied a U.S. visa twice for a book tour and was only granted one after the intervention of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer who was responding to Irish American concerns.

In his statement given to IrishCentral, Tim Pat Coogan said: “As I suspect I am the only prominent Irish writer to have been barred from the U.S. in the recent past I feel I must reply to the Ambassador Rooney statement.

“I have only the friendliest feelings towards Ambassador Rooney personally but have found dealing with the U.S. Embassy Kafkaesque.

“I have been reliably informed many others less prominent than I have had very bad experiences also.

“There is no reason for such difficult behavior towards a friendly country.”

Read More: Diplomats gone wild at U.S. Embassy in Dublin say concerned Irish

“My case is simple. I was unexpectedly turned down on two visas and was only phoned out of the blue by an anonymous Embassy spokesman a day after my book tour was due to begin to say my third application had been successful.

“This success followed a major campaign of protest from Irish Americans, which prompted Senator Charles Schumer to intervene on my behalf. By then it was too late for my book tour.

“The refusal came as a great blow to me personally given my record of friendship towards the U.S.  And at no time was I given an explanation by Embassy officials as to the reasons.”

Ambassador Rooney in his statement said: “I want to respond to a series of media reports about a delay in a visa for a prominent Irish writer.  These reports were particularly harsh and showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the visa process.

"Although we cannot comment on individual cases, I do want to say that during my time as Ambassador to Ireland I have seen how our consular officers at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin are dedicated to facilitating travel between Ireland and the U.S.

"Our consular officers, like their counterparts all over the world, have the difficult job of enforcing U.S. Immigration laws. They do vital work, but their service often goes unsung and can even be derided by those who don’t understand the law and the process or don’t like the outcome.  Let me say that each applicant’s eligibility for a visa is evaluated individually and objectively under U.S. law.  No Embassy officer, including the Ambassador, has the legal discretion to disregard a finding of ineligibility or to waive any requirement for administrative processing.  

"The service to their country that U.S. consular officers provide is essential to keeping our borders safe,” the statement ends.

I have to say the Rooney statement is problematic to me. Everyone agrees in keeping U.S.  borders safe  but making it incredibly difficult for Ireland’s leading historian and most pro-American writer  to come here hardly qualifies for positive  border security measures.

Ambassador Rooney’s point that the letter of the law is always applied is debatable. How is it that when Senator  Schumer intervened the rules changed and a visa magically materialized?

Read More: United States visa ban on Tim Pat Coogan removed after Senator Schumer steps in

Rooney seems to be in the paw of the Embassy securocrats, most notably US Consular  official Bradley Wilde who has drawn huge criticism for his attitude from those  Irish who deal  with him and some of his  staff.

As I understand it, there have been high level expressions of concern from the Irish government about the refusal of visas to several Irish people, none as famous as Coogan before this but nothing has changed.

Perhaps Ambassador Rooney could refer back to what a predecessor, Jean Kennedy Smith said about Coogan and his new book ‘The Famine Plot’

“He has the wisdom of a craftsman, the urgency of a journalist the depth of a historian..... he is one of the greatest social commentators of our time’

Surely a dangerous man to allow into the United States!