Taoiseach Bertie Ahern says it will be difficult to resolve the plight of undocumented Irish people living in the US.

Mr Ahern told the Dáil that efforts to establish a legal agreement on immigration between Ireland and the US were continuing.

However, with the political focus in the US firmly on the race for the White House, he said the issue of the undocumented Irish was as good as off the agenda for the next few months.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore and Fine Gael's Michael Ring today called on the Taoiseach to use his address to the Joint Houses of Congress to emphasise the need for action.

Mr Ahern said he would raise the issue during his St Patrick's Day visit to Washington and that he was likely to refer to the topic in his address.

The Taoiseach also expressed hope that two of the frontrunners to succeed George W Bush would back the cause, once they had the election out of the way.

He said Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain 'had to get off the bus' on the issue of immigration reform last year but they were strong supporters of the Irish position.