Taoiseach raises immigration reform during US visit

Friday 14 March 2014 22.41
1 of 4
Enda Kenny presented Barack Obama with the traditional St Patrick's Day bowl of shamrock
Enda Kenny presented Barack Obama with the traditional St Patrick's Day bowl of shamrock
Taoiseach Enda Kenny met US President Barack Obama in the White House
Taoiseach Enda Kenny met US President Barack Obama in the White House
Mr Kenny with John Boehner and Barack Obama outside the Capitol
Mr Kenny with John Boehner and Barack Obama outside the Capitol
Mr Kenny and his wife Fionnuala attended a St Patrick's breakfast at Joe Biden's residence
Mr Kenny and his wife Fionnuala attended a St Patrick's breakfast at Joe Biden's residence

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told US Vice President Joe Biden about the frustration that Ireland feels in relation to the lack of immigration reform in the United States.

Mr Kenny was speaking at a St Patrick's breakfast at the vice president's residence. He later met US President Barack Obama in the White House.

Mr Obama said that he was personally guaranteeing Mr Biden will make a trip to Ireland.

The Taoiseach this morning said there is a frustration when people look at US elected representatives and wonder why they cannot do anything about it.

He said the 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US wanted a process of legislation to pay their taxes, pay their way, raise their families, travel home and back, and contribute to the community and economy.

Mr Kenny said Irish people suffered disproportionately as a result of existing immigration legislation, which has been in place since 1965.

He said Ireland would support any measures that would change that situation.

Vice President Biden thanked the Taoiseach for pushing for US immigration reform and for travelling around the US to do so.

He also praised Mr Kenny for the austerity measures he had undertaken.

Mr Biden said that the Taoiseach "had the courage to make difficult decisions" and the "faith in his fellow countrymen to endure it".

He said that Irish people had weathered more than their fair share of hard times but had always come out the other end.

Mr Biden told Mr Kenny that under his stewardship, the Republic had lived through its toughest times since its establishment.

The two men along with President Obama attended a lunch on Capitol Hill hosted by Speaker of the House Republican Congressman John Boehner.

Speaking at the lunch the Taoiseach called for action on the immigration issue, saying the Irish were disproportionately affected by the existing laws.

Mr Kenny said the Irish wanted to contribute to the US economy, pay taxes and be able to travel home freely. 

The Speaker of the House is responsible for bringing the bill on immigration reform, which the Senate has already approved, before the House of Representatives.

Speaker Boehner joked afterwards that he had been "worked over" by the Taoiseach during his lunch.

Mr Kenny made the traditional shamrock presentation to Mr Obama at an official St Patrick's Day reception at the White House.

Obama 'guarantees' Biden visit to Ireland

Later at the White House, Mr Obama was asked by RTÉ News if there was any chance Mr Biden would make a promised trip to Ireland.

Mr Obama said Mr Biden lobbied him every week to go to Ireland, so he was guaranteeing that he would get there.

He also said to tell everyone in Moneygall he said "hi".

On serious matters, Mr Obama said that he and the US government were very disappointed that agreement had not been reached in the recent all-party talks in Northern Ireland, which were chaired by Richard Haass.

He said he urged the parties to keep working to reach a final conclusion.

Mr Kenny said he had impressed upon Mr Obama the need for immigration reform and the requirement to dispatch a US Ambassador to Ireland.

Watch: As seen on TV - St Patrick's Day through the ages.