17 March 2006

No special deal for 50,000 illegal Irish, US tells Ahern

Irish Examiner

By Shaun Connolly

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern was last night told there could be no special deal for the 50,000 Irish illegals in the US as he used the annual St Patrick’s Day visit to Washington DC to battle to save them from deportation.

Republican Senator John McCain insisted the workers could only be included in an overall agreement dealing with the 12 million such foreigners believed to be in America.

He said he was hopeful the legislation he and Senator Ted Kennedy are championing will prevail over more draconian attempts to tighten immigration laws.

The Arizona senator said illegal Irish and foreign workers needed to be encouraged to join mainstream society to end their "exploitation" on its margins.

"Are there Irish citizens here being exploited? There are I've talked to some of them," he said after meeting the Taoiseach.

Mr Ahern pledged to keep up pressure on the issue as he conducted a day of intensive lobbying which saw him meeting other leading political figures as well as being guest of honour at a Congressional lunch attended by US President George W Bush.

Senator Kennedy said: "The status of the 50,000 to 70,000 undocumented Irish in America needs to be adjusted."

The Taoiseach also urged US pressure to help force a deal on power-sharing and civil policing in the North by the end of the year.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams criticised the Bush administration for banning him from fundraising activities during his US visit.

"It's the principle that's involved, that Sinn Féin would be treated differently from any other party. I have to say I am just bewildered about that," he said.

Meanwhile, the widow of murdered Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, Geraldine, said Senator Hillary Clinton had pledged to press the British government to allow a fully independent inquiry into the killing.

Mr Ahern will meet Mr Bush for further talks today.

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