Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Western People report on Dublin meeting for families of the undocumented Irish in America

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 1,500 attend Dublin rally for illegal Irish in United States

MORE THAN 1,500 people packed into Jurys Ballsbridge on Saturday, April 14 in support of their family and friends who are living illegally in the US.

The meeting had been organised by the New York-based Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
Executive Director Kelly Fincham said that they were delighted with the turnout. “The sheer size of the crowd really sends a strong message that Ireland has not turned its back on the undocumented Irish in the US.”

Several top politicians also attended the meeting; Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, and the new Deputy Minister in the North, Martin McGuinness spoke in support of the efforts to gain legal status for the Irish undocumented.

Mayo Deputy Michael Ring, who has raised the matter in the Dail on numerous occasions was also in attendance.

“It was important to have this rally in Ireland as we want to keep the campaign to the forefront for the General Election. I would be saying to people who have family living illegally in the United States to raise the matter with the candidates when they visit their homes. We need support from all political parties if we are to make a difference on this issue. It is vitally important that we do not forget our emigrants in America.”

It was the presence of the family members and their stories of separation which really drove the day’s events in Dublin.

One woman, Sheila Murphy, whose two children are both in Boston for the past 15 years, said it was the first time she had felt Irish people cared about their plight. “It’s been so tough the past few years because it was almost as if Ireland had turned its back on our own. I hated telling people that my son and daughter were in America because of some people’s attitude. Today has been magnificent. I feel much less alone.”

Dublin father, Dave Meade, described his frustration with critics who believe the undocumented Irish should just return home.

“They don’t understand what our children are going through,” he said. “America is their home now, so how can they just pack up and leave?”

“My daughter would happily pay fines to try and change her status. She’s already paying taxes. All she wants is a way to come out of the shadows and live a normal life.”

Donegal father Micheal McMahon told the packed hall that his son Micheal had been in the US for 14 years. “He is married to a lovely Irish woman, they have great children, who are also US citizens, and yet they can’t bring their children back to Ireland to visit us. We have to go to America to visit them. But some parents are getting older and the travelling to see their children and grandchildren is hard.”

The hall was dominated by a picture of two American children, Lily and Daniel, whose parents are unable to bring them back to Ireland.

The children’s aunt was in the audience and she said it was heartbreaking to see the pictures of the two children. “They’re so close, and yet so far,” she said.


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