The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has said there can be no special deal for Irish illegal immigrants in the United States, and that their situation will have to be dealt with as part of a comprehensive solution.

He was speaking after a meeting with Senator John McCain, one of the key sponsors of immigration reform legislation.

Immigration reform is a hot political issue in Washington DC at the moment, with proposals due to be debated in the Senate soon.

There are up to 12 million illegal immigrants in the US, and while the Irish only make up at most 50,000 of that figure, the Taoiseach is pushing the issue in the American capital this week.

Today, he has been having a series of meetings with congressional leaders, including Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy, who are sponsoring a bill that would offer illegals a way to secure citizenship.

After a meeting with Mr Ahern, Senator McCain said this issue was not going away.

And he said he wanted a comprehensive settlement, and did not want to start 'carving out' different national groups.

Mr Ahern agreed, saying a patchwork solution would not work - only a comprehensive deal covering all nationalities.