The President, Mary McAleese, has said she believes some seeds of hope have been sown this week to help solve the problem of the millions of undocumented in the United States.

Ms McAleese was referring to a speech made by the US President, George W Bush, this week in which he outlined his commitment to the issue.

She added, however, that in the current immigration reform debate in the US she would not expect a special case to be made for the undocumented Irish, who were a 'tiny minority' of the estimated 12 million undocumented in the US.

The Government estimates there are between 20 and 25,000 undocumented Irish in the US but the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform puts the figure at closer to 50,000.

The president made her comments in Butte, Montana, which has a special place in the history of Irish America after thousands of Irish went there in the 19th Century to mine copper, making the city their own.

Butte's population is still predominately of Irish descent and last night hundreds of its citizens turned out to greet President McAleese.