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Taoiseach and Obama discuss deal for Irish illegals

NewsBy Kevin Palmer
Kenny and Obama spent St Patrick's Day together
Kenny and Obama spent St Patrick's Day together

Taoiseach Enda Kenny used his St Patrick’s Day trip to Washington to raise the issue of seeking help for illegal Irish immigrants in America, but he admitted there were "issues" around solving the problem.

Mr Kenny admitted he was disappointed that Obama was not making progress with his plan to bypass the Republican-led Congress and aiming to protect up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation.

Concerns have been raised that Irish who return home for family events such as weddings and funerals are then blocked from returning to America, but free access between the two countries remains a political ball game.

Mr Kenny confirmed that he discussed with Mr Obama the possibility of visa waivers that would allow illegal immigrants to return to Ireland without facing three or 10-year travel bans for illegally overstaying out of date US visas.

Obama and the Taoiseach also discussed the ongoing complications in the Northern Ireland peace process, with Kenny offering these comments on the political infighting in Stormont.

“He expressed his understanding that there’s a bit of an obstacle here, but I explained to him that I expect this can be dealt with.

“It’s a case now for the executive politicians in Northern Ireland and the leadership to sit down now and sort out whatever little obstacles are there.”

Kenny's annual trip to America was overshadowed by a comment from US Vice-President Joe Biden, who suggested "anyone wearing orange" was not welcome at the St Patrick's Day celebrations.

There have now been calls for Biden to apologise over his ill-advised remark, which was made in front of an uncomfortable Kenny and his wife Fionnuala.