Wednesday, 11 May 1988
Seanad Eireann Debate
That Seanad Éireann condemns the ineffective and uncaring approach adopted by the Government in resolving the plight of the Irish (out of status) emigrants in the US, especially in view of repeated and unambiguous assurances given by the present Government when in Opposition and requests that the Government uses all in its resources to:
Mr. J. O'Toole: Last week I spent some time dealing with the whole area of emigration and tying it into unemployment and I talked about the great waste of resources of young people. I described how one in every two are leaving the country; in other words, we are losing half a generation. I referred to the fact that while this great, natural resource of our young people is flowing out of this country at a rate of 50 per cent of them leaving us or looking forward to leaving us if the Kinsale oil or gas, or some of our mineral wealth, or some of the more tangible assets of the country were to go to waste at the same rate, there would be cries of outrage.
With the plethora of training programmes, courses and centres for unemployed, social employment schemes, community schemes, enterprise schemes, etc., unemployment has almost become an industry of its own. The most astronomical unemployment figures now cause no more than a ripple in the news pond. Emigration has been presented by some of our leading opinion informers as merely a solution to unemployment rather than a waste of our greatest resource. It is fair to say that the scandal of emigration must also be tied into the failure of industry and the private sector and Government policy and all of us involved in any way with providing jobs in a country which could be providing jobs. I do not have time at this stage to outline where all our young people might be rather than in the Bronx or in Europe but I do want to point to a few things.
I listened to the discussion in recent days on the problems for the fishing industry at the moment because we cannot export our fish. It brings an interesting point to mind. We are now in a situation where in Ireland for everybody working on the seas full time as a fisher person, we have 0.8 of a person working on fish processing or fish-dependent industry, whereas the European average is eight. In other words, we could be  employing ten times more people on land in fish processing than we are at the moment. The export of fish to the Continent is every bit as bad as the export of cattle on the hoof. Fish should be processed here and it should provide work here; it should have added-value here and it should then be exported. It is a scandal that it is not happening.
I have no time for these people who have betrayed the fishing industry — I come from a fishing town myself — over 40, 50 or 60 years. I have no time to listen to people whingeing and whining about Spanish trawlers coming into our waters. Why are the Spanish not worried about our fishing trawlers in Spanish waters since we have got an older tradition and have had a longer opportunity to develop our fishing industry? Similarly, in terms of agriculture we have heard a lot recently about the position of Denmark vis-à-vis the position of Ireland, that it is a country with much the same population and many other comparisons. In this country with a very firm agricultural base we are processing one million pigs per year. Denmark is processing 15 million. We are very low on the production level. We are away down and we are doing nothing about increasing jobs. The Pigs and Bacon Commission was abolished about 15 years ago, as I understand it and it is only in the last couple of months it has been taken into the meat marketing board. We have the best climate in Europe for the growth of trees——
Mr. J. O'Toole: Yes, let me make the connection. I am making the point that the reason we have emigration and the reason we have to care about these people is that we have failed to provide for them at home. I am also making the point that we have the national resources to do that. I am also making the point that, if private industry is the jewel in the crown of capitalism, we have seen many of the unacceptable facets of private  industry and capitalism over the past number of weeks.
Let me tell the House some more of the problems of emigration and why they are being caused. We had the greatest export development of any country in Europe last year when we improved our exports by about 13.7 per cent. It has made no impact whatsoever on the quality of life, or the standard of living, or the wealth of this country. It has not done so simply because the groups with the largest export growth are those in foreign-owned industry and they are bringing in their goods cheaply, adding no value here whatsoever, exporting them to the export markets and are then repatriating their profits to their home countries. It is not good enough. That is another reason we are failing to provide employment. We should be demanding added-value in those industries.
I would also go much further and suggest that unemployment and emigration must be very closely tied together. We now have a way of stopping emigration. For one time in our history the Government, private industry and the trade union movement can share a common objective of supporting wealth creation and that must be the objective, wealth creation for different reasons. The Government must support wealth creation because greater wealth allows greater political options and allows them scope to develop the country. The private sector and industry would support the idea of wealth creation because more wealth means more profit which activates the greed buds and is a very healthy way to stimulate private industry.
The trade union movement, for different reasons, support wealth creation because they recognise that in the prevailing political climate the only way society's inequities can be redressed in the short term is by creating wealth which can be taxed and in that way redistributed positively in favour of the under-privileged. We will continue to have emigration as long as our society is still unfair, as long as it is still based on inequity of access and opportunity and as long as it maintains privilege. We have  also seen in the last week or so a very clear understanding by those people who know the facts that the 1 per cent growth which we had last year should really have been 4 per cent were it not for the repatriation of profits.
What I am trying to explain is that we are now the slaves of our own bad policies of the past. It is not too late to make a change. We should now insist that we use every employment opportunity. I have just mentioned a few which are practical, pragmatic approaches to increasing employment, thereby banishing the curse of emigration and thereby protecting our young people, giving them a future in Ireland rather than putting us into a situation of trying to improve their future abroad.
I regret very much the outflow of our young people, our innovative, well-educated young people. As long as our young people are leaving us, we are losing our greatest asset in terms of economic recovery, our greatest asset in two parts, first of all an educated, young population and, secondly, a population of young people who can make and take decisions. We are losing them: instead of looking after them abroad let us concentrate on keeping them at home.
Mr. Mooney: I have read some of the contributions and I listened to others in this debate, mainly from the other side of the House, and I can only express a certain amazement and some disappointment at the wording of the Motion and the unjustified attacks on the Government for their approach to this question of out of status or illegal Irish in the United States. The problem only manifested itself since 1982, as Senator Connor quite correctly stated in his opening contribution last week.
Mr. Mooney: The Senator can make his contribution at the end of the debate. I did not interrupt him. I hope he will also allow me to use the little time I have and perhaps he can then reply accordingly.
Mr. Mooney: I would be delighted to listen to any interruptions as they arise but empty vessels sometimes make the loudest sounds. Senator Connor said that this whole question started in 1982 and he then went on to attack Fianna Fáil. I was surprised because he failed to mention that this exodus of young people coincided with the period in Government of his party and the Labour Party.
I was privileged to initiate a debate on this subject in the Seanad by way of Motion shortly after my election last spring. In the course of that debate I referred to emigration as an emotive subject. Nine months have not changed my view. Forced emigration in particular is an emotive subject: it is also a national scandal. It is a scandal for which all parties and all politicians must bear some responsibility. However, I suggest to my colleagues on the other side of the House that they should look at the mote in their own eye before launching a broadside against Fianna Fáil on an issue Fianna Fáil picked up from day one. If there has been any significant progress in United States legislation on this matter, even the dogs in the street will acknowledge that the personal interventions of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister of State at the Department of Education, Deputy Fahey who is with us this evening have played no small role in impressing on our friends on Capitol Hill the seriousness of the problem for our young people.
I said it before and I will say it again.  The illegals in the United States, the youngsters in London and elsewhere who have had to leave Ireland in recent years, are our responsibility even hundreds and thousands of miles away. If they are in difficulties we must reach out to them. In looking after their needs in a foreign country we can also maintain an important contact with them and, hopefully, as the economy improves and as more and more jobs come on-stream in this country — as I have no doubt they will in the months and years ahead — young people will want to come back to Ireland.
The general perception I have of many of our young people is that they are abroad unwillingly, that it is not just simply a question of being out of the country because they think things have not been going well, or because they do not like Ireland; it is mainly that they have not been able to get jobs. The quality of life in this country has a great deal to offer. Many of your young people — as indeed I did myself when I first emigrated as a teenager — have suffered a culture shock on going into large conurbations. When I think of the difficulties I and my contemporaries faced some 20 years ago when we emigrated, they pale into insignificance compared with the difficulties faced by many of our young people who not only have to cope with the difficulty of finding a job in a new and sometimes hostile environment but also of finding suitable accommodation at a reasonable price and then having all the difficulties of day-to-day living on a particular budget.
Senator Connor asked in the course of his contribution last week whether or not the Government had sought an amnesty. The amnesty is in the context of the legislation which was put before the US Senate and House of Representatives which meant that anybody who had been living illegally in the United States before 1982 could apply for legal status and that their applications would more than likely be processed. I am sure if Senator Connor is listening, whether it be here or elsewhere, he will know that I am not singling him out specifically for attack. Much of what he said was very sensible but he did  make the point that this amnesty facility had not been picked up to any great extent and asked could not, perhaps, many of the Irish illegals who are out of status in America now become part of that amnesty, for example, by extending it.
However, that does not seem to be a viable political prospect. I know our own Government have pressed for an amnesty. Indeed, the Government's view on it is that an amnesty would provide a permanent solution for our citizens now illegally in the United States. The Tánaiste, Deputy Lenihan, discussed it with Congressional and other leaders during his visits to the United States over the past 12 months but he was advised that such a move would be most unlikely to prove successful in Congress. In the circumstances the Government believe that the best prospect for long term legislative reform lies in the measures now proposed by Senator Kennedy, Senator Simpson and by Congressman Donnelly.
Behind that policy statement is the difficulty that any politician in America has in bringing forward reforms in the Immigration Control Acts as they are currently operating in the United States. This is mainly because of the influx of many, many millions of illegals across the Texas-Mexican border on the one hand, and also from the offshore islands which come under the US mandate. Many hundreds and thousands and millions of these people, unfortunate people I have to say, have poured into the United States illegally and are attempting to find work and to find a suitable environment in which to bring up their families. Sad to say, in many cases they fail to find jobs and as a result they are on welfare — as they refer to it in America — and this is, of course, a drain on the American economy. In States where there is a high influx of such unfortunate illegals there is great pressure on the Representatives or US Senators not to encourage reform in the immigration law area or, indeed, to go so far as to block it. Consequently, any suggestion that there should be an extension of the amnesty that came into force in 1986 would be met with very stiff  political opposition in both Houses. The Government's policy and their approach to the question of extending the amnesty are sensible in the circumstances.
US immigration law is extremely complex. The main provisions are in the 1965 Immigration Act which severely restricts access to immigrant visas by individuals other than relatives of US citizens and of US residents. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act introduced sanctions against employers and that, of course, was alluded to in this debate and in the debate last summer. I stated at the time, and I repeat, that as a country we were rather lax in 1965 in not being vigilant enough in watching the progress of that legislation through both Houses, both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Consequently, Ireland was in a sense to lose its most favoured nation status and the general thrust of immigration quotas was to move away from the old world, the old European world countries whose people had traditionally emigrated in large numbers, not only Ireland but also Germany and Italy and the Scandinavian countries and indeed our neighbours, Great Britain.
The orientation in the legislation of 1965 was more away from those countries and more towards the countries in the Pacific Basin and, of course, in Central America. As a result Ireland was to lose out. The inactivity — if I may use that word — of politicians in this country in 1965 has borne a rather sad legacy in 1988 in that we are now in a sense trying to undo the damage that was done at that time. However, that is water under the bridge and I suppose in the context of the time, if one looks back at 1965, it was a period of buoyancy, of economic boom, the country was “on the up”. We were experiencing the greatest economic advance in our short history and it was inevitable that legislation on immigration to America would have passed on the nod without being given any great priority by the Government here at the time.
However, two positive developments came out of the last Act, the Immigration Reform and Control Act as it relates to Ireland. It created 10,000 non-preference  visas; these were the famous Donnelly visas and they are to be issued over a two year period up to September of this year. Over 3,000 Irish applicants were declared eligible for these visas. I remember at the time they came out many commentators, myself included, criticised this move on the basis that it seemed like a shameful lottery, a lottery in which young people who, unable to find suitable jobs at home and who were also caught in the vice of illegal status in the United States, found themselves in this mad rush to get letters and application forms to Washington on a particular day and on a particular post and all sorts of ingenuity was used in order to get them there. It seemed like a rather shameful episode in our recent history and I hope it will never be repeated. The moves currently in Congress in relation to improving the status of our illegals in America would seem to eliminate that lottery process in the future. It is in that context that one must compliment the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Deputy Fahey, all of whom have travelled to the United States — in the case of the Taoiseach and Tánaiste on numerous occasions.
It is important to put on record that one of the main planks of the election platform of the Fianna Fáil Party prior to the general election was that Fianna Fáil, if returned to Government would take immediate and effective action in the area of the illegals and out of status young people in America. Within days — literally within days — of Fianna Fáil assuming office both the Tanáiste and the Taoiseach were on their way to the United States where they met the relevant individuals working with the young Irish in America. They met with Church authorities, they met with the newly-formed Irish Immigration Reform Movement and they also met the consular officials, all of them anxious and willing to co-ordinate their efforts to improve the lot of the young Irish who were going over to America in many thousands or had been going over in the previous few years.
Another aspect of the illegals in the  States is that there seems to be some confusion about how many are actually over there. All sorts of figures have been bandied around but it seems that, according to the figures released in recent months by the Central Statistics Office, there is an estimated 40,000 young illegals in America. As far as I am concerned, and I know that this view will be shared by all responsible politicians of all parties in this House and in the other House, 40,000 is 39,999 too many, particularly if they had to leave rather than those who, in the normal course of events, wished to leave to extend their expertise in a particular area and, hopefully, they will come back home.
I would also like to refute any suggestion that our representatives in the United States are ignoring the plight of young people who are out of status in the United States. Our embassy in Washington and our consulates throughout the United States are continuing to monitor closely the implementation of US immigration legislation. The best long term solution, the Government feel for our young people in the United States, is the implementation of legislative reform in the US. It is thanks to our Irish-American community and our friends in Congress that there is now a very realistic possibility that the Kennedy-Simpson Bill will be passed into law.
They are in an election year in the United States. If the legislation is passed it will go a long way towards alleviating the legislative problem of our out of status young people in the States. I hope my colleagues agree with me in that. If it is not passed before the November presidential elections, I understand that under United States legislative process this piece of legislation will fall with the termination of the Congress business in November. Obviously, it is important for our political leaders — and I use that word in the widest possible sense — on all sides of the House, if they have an opportunity to meet and  come in contact with American legislators in the Legislature, to impress upon them the seriousness of our position and the importance of getting this legislation through. I may have started on an acrimonious note but the terms of the motion seemed to be rather surprising in the context of the very real achievement and the matter of historical fact over the past nine to 12 months of this Administration, the achievements they have made and the efforts they are continuing to make, both in this country and in America to ensure that our illegals are brought back into status. The Government have initiated a policy of ensuring continuous contact with our emigrants abroad. As a former emigrant I have felt for a long long time that once our young people left, successive Governments here seemed to ignore them. I am glad to say that this Government's policy at least has set a precedent, which I hope will be continued so long as there is emigration, that if a young person leaves this country and has any difficulties the Government of Ireland will look after him or her as if they were in this country and encourage them to return home. That is the aspiration of all of us, that our young people would return home and that they would be living again in their own environment with their own families and contributing to the welfare of this great country of ours. Go raibh maith agat.
Mr. G. Reynolds: I am one of those who signed this Motion. I can speak with a degree of expertise as I happened to be one of the infamous illegal immigrants from 1982 to 1985. When I went to the United States a lot of lip service was paid by politicians in this country to the plight of illegal immigrants over there. As somebody listening and looking for help I found it was a lot of hot air and nothing came of it. I went to New York in 1981. Emigration at that stage was beginning to peak but in the following years, from roughly 1982 to 1987 it increased alarmingly. Young people have left this country. We have a lost generation and, like Senator Mooney, I wish and hope they will return.
 Leitrim has lost them and we need them back. I will give an example. I left national school in 1973. There were 36 people in my class. Two of them are living in Leitrim today. That is the situation which now manifests itself within the west of Ireland, I think the Minister is quite aware that is the case in many parts of rural Ireland. As Members of the Oireachtas we should not pay lip service to a very serious social problem.
I do not want to make any political gain out of this Motion. People who left this country are cynical about politicians in Ireland and in the US. That is unfortunate. They find themselves in places like New York depending on friends or relatives who went there before them. If their friends and relatives in the US have not done very well, unfortunately the people going out to them are not going to do any better.
The Emigration Reform and Control Act, 1986, has had a very serious effect on illegal immigrants. Under that Act, as everybody is aware, an employer can be fined up to £10,000 for hiring illegal aliens. Many employers were willing, because of their ancestral roots, to try to help young Irish people in the US. Many employers are still willing to take a chance, but quite a number of employers have let illegal immigrants go and do not wish to employ them. This in turn leads to unscrupulous employers who may employ and are employing young Irish people at very low wages.
As numerous Senators said, the cost of accommodation in the US is exorbitant and we now find that the young Irish illegals are staying in accommodation — perhaps a one bedroom apartment — with ten or 12 people. This is totally unacceptable. Snide remarks were made about the way the Pakistani or Indian people live together in hovels in London. Unfortunately, the Irish people in America have to bring themselves to this level at present. This is something——
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I wish to inform the speaker that the Minister must attend a division in the other House, but  the Senator may continue if he so desires. It is your choice, Senator, you may either continue or we can have a sos.
Mr. G. Reynolds: I can make my point briefly. There is one important point I would like to make to which Senator Mooney referred earlier, that is, the number of illegal aliens who did not take up the amnesty visas. I know they did not take up these amnesty visas because of fear and lack of advice. They thought if they went to the relevant immigration authorities and stated that they had been in the country illegally for a long period they would be deported.
The second part of our motion calls for the establishment of support and advice centres in New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco and is of vital importance. Many amnesty visas could have been taken up but, through fear and lack of advice people were not willing to take the chance. That was unfortunate, because it was a good opportunity to obtain a visa. However, the advice centres were not there. After the Minister returned from America there were statements in the daily papers. I remember, in particular, that the Mayor of New York stated that any illegal Irish immigrants who got into specific difficulties relating to hospitalisation — and we are all aware of the exorbitant cost of hospitalisation in America — would get help. Unfortunately this help is not forthcoming. I know of two examples in the past two months of people who have been hospitalised. They have no insurance cover and they depend on the goodness of county communities in the States.
Mr. G. Reynolds: I want to reiterate that point about hospitalisation. It was stated in the newspapers that the Mayor of New York would try to help illegal immigrants. I know it was not a binding  statement but it was rather misleading, especially for people who are there illegally with their families. They know about the exorbitant costs that prohibit people from being hospitalised. I have a friend in the US who unfortunately received very serious burns. The hospitalisation costs came to something in the region of 75,000 dollars, which is an awful lot of money. The Irish communities there at present are trying to raise this money for him and there is no talk of any Government agencies in New York or New York City giving him any financial help towards meeting the costs. These type of statements are misleading and unhelpful. Perhaps if I give the Minister the information afterwards he may be able to intervene and help out with that problem.
The Kennedy-Donnelly Bill which provided extra visas for Ireland last year and this year was quite helpful but, as Senator Mooney said, it was on a lottery type basis and people had little appreciation of the great value of these visas. The establishment of advice centres in the US would be of great benefit to the illegal immigrants. It must be remembered that, even though the Irish-American politicians are working extremely hard on our behalf, our power as an ethnic group in the United States has been eroding slowly. We are not as powerful as we once were. This must be taken into consideration by the Government. People from Latin America and Hispanics are becoming an extremely powerful group in the United States. They are also causing many problems for the immigration authorities. The authorities have a bigger problem about people from Latin America than from Western Europe. When legislation is being put through the Houses of Congress, it will be quite difficult for Irish-American politicians to get support. As the Bills are now in the House, this Government should ask American politicians and friends in Congress from all the political parties to use their influence on our behalf. This is our chance to try to get an amnesty for the illegal immigrants.
Mr. G. Reynolds: It is essential that we help them as much as possible. It is also essential that they are aware that they are welcome to return to this country. The county organisations — I am talking specifically of my experience in New York — can be of enormous benefit to the many young Irish people who do not know the ropes and who do not know where to go to look for advice. Should the Government consider giving some money to these county associations, it would be money well spent. The advice which the legal immigrants could give to young Irish people would be very helpful.
Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. F. Fahey): Let me say at the outset how much the tone of the motion before us saddens me. Indeed, I am amazed in particular, by the manner in which it “condemns the ineffective and uncaring approach adopted by the Government in resolving the plight of the Irish (out of status) emigrants in the US”. This language is, in my opinion, a good description of the approach of the previous Government who were in power when the vast majority of the out of status Irish emigrants went to the United States. I do not wish to make this a political issue. I am normally a peace-loving person but I have to respond to the type of language used and the attack made by Senator Connor, in particular, when he was moving this motion last week.
It is sheer hypocrisy for the Fine Gael Party to put forward such a motion when one considers their performance on the subject of emigration when they were in Government. In fact, their dealing with emigration was simply to ignore the fact that thousands of people were leaving this country. I recall on a number of occasions in the Dáil when I questioned the then Taoiseach on the numbers of people leaving this country — and gave my opinion that it was in the region of  30,000 — that he continually stated that no more than 6,000 people per annum were leaving. Subsequently the census showed that the figures I was giving were correct. Even then the previous Government took no action whatsoever on the question. They still wished to brush it under the carpet. I recall one particular day in the Dáil when I insisted that the question should not be taken unless it was answered by the Taoiseach or in his presence. The then Taoiseach sat in silence while the Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach answered that question. That sums up the performance of the previous Government in regard to emigration.
At no time in the years in office of the previous Government did the Taoiseach or his colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, personally take any form of political or diplomatic initiative in this area. At no time did the then Taoiseach or his colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, go to the United States to see for themselves how serious the problem was, to meet with representatives of the Irish-American community and to discuss what could be done to alleviate the plight of the out of status Irish. In fact, at no time did I hear any comment from any Fine Gael Member of the Oireachtas on the question of emigration. We had a major about turn by the party on this question as soon as they went into Opposition. The comments we heard, in particular from Senator Connor the last night ring rather hollow when one considers the performance of his party on this most important topic while they were in Government.
By contrast, even when we were in Opposition, Fianna Fáil took a close and compassionate interest in the problem. I visited the United States in late 1986 and saw for myself the real conditions in which the out of status Irish people were living and working. Together with other Fianna Fáil TDs, I repeatedly raised the issue in the Dáil and repeatedly ran up against a wall of incomprehension. When the general election of 1987 was called, it was Fianna Fáil, and only Fianna Fáil, who identified emigration and the out of  status Irish in the US as an issue. From the other side there was a deafening silence. Since then, as we will see, we have delivered on our promises. The Taoiseach has been praised for the work he has undertaken in Government but, in my view, probably his greatest achievement has been the level of progress he has brought about on all fronts in regard to the out of status Irish in the United States. In that context let me say that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is the one who put that progress into action. I am sad that he is not here to participate in this debate this evening. I am sure we all wish him a very speedy recovery. He has done enormous work over the past 14 months and I propose to outline the progress made. In the light of this, for Fine Gael to accuse the Government of “an ineffective and uncaring approach” is, to put it mildly, rather ironic.
Emigration is a national problem. Its causes are not simple. They are part social, part economic and part demographic. Its solution is far from easy to obtain. As every Government since the foundation of the State have found, the creation of jobs requires continued and determined effort involving the harnessing of all our natural resources. A major objective of Government policy is to build a climate conducive to investment and job creation which will ensure that no Irish man or woman will be forced by economic necessity to travel overseas in search of a better life. I am confident that we shall succeed in this.
In the meantime, since the early eighties many thousands of our young people, well educated and well trained, have left our shores. Many have gone to the United States. It was during the period of the last Coalition Government that most of those people found it necessary to emigrate. Again, it rings rather hollow for Senator Connor to make an attack on the Government when, in fact, most of those people were forced to leave this country as a result of policies pursued by his Government. Their going represents a major national loss. It is a loss both to those who emigrate and in the longer  term to the community as a whole. The Government are most concerned at this development and are determined to do all in their power to alleviate the most immediate problems facing our emigrants and to remove the basic economic causes of emigration in the long term.
Our emigrants in the United States face special difficulties because of their uncertain legal status. Since taking office the Government have invested a good deal of energy and effort in this issue. We were particularly encouraged in our task to see what appeared to be the emergence of a broad measure of parliamentary consensus on this issue last December when in the Dáil we accepted the terms of a Fine Gael motion which, while not perfect, as we indicated at the time, we could live with. Now, however, that party have decided to introduce a distinctive element of confrontation into this debate in the preamble to the motion. The Government deprecate this change of approach and are compelled to oppose the passing of this motion by this House. At the same time, we welcome the debate. It is nearly a year since the House last considered the issue and it is opportune to bring before it a report on how the Government have delivered on their commitments — and deliver we have, as the record shows.
The Government have addressed the problem of the out of status Irish in the US on two principal levels. In the first place we sought to have US law in the area modified. Under current law it is extremely difficult for most of our out of status emigrants to regularise their legal position. We have discussed this in depth with our Irish-American friends in Congress and the almost unanimous reaction was that an amnesty would be extremely difficult to get. That this advice was sound was borne out by the fate of the proposed amendment to the Kennedy-Simpson Bill introduced in the US Senate in March which sought to extend the amnesty deadline of 1 January 1982. There was so little support for this measure that the proposed amendment was withdrawn.
I would like to remind the House that the amnesty provision contained in the  1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act was one of the reasons the Act took so long — almost four years — to win approval in Congress. Moreover, several attempts to have a more up-to-date amnesty incorporated in the Act were defeated. Clearly, another Bill designed to bring forward the 1982 deadline would be most unlikely to command sufficient support in Congress for adoption. Therefore, the call Senator Connor made last week for Government lobbying in regard to an amnesty shows him to be very poorly informed on the situation that pertains in the US Legislature. When such calls are made one might remember the various efforts that have been made, and their fate as I have just recalled them and, indeed, an amnesty Bill from Congressman Joseph Kennedy which has not even been moved for the simple reason that the Congressman knows there is no possibility of any success.
What is needed is a structural change in US law on immigration. The main Act, the 1965 Immigration Act, incorporates the twin principles of family reunification and non-discrimination. The falling off of emigration from this country between the early sixties and the late seventies meant that we could not benefit from the principle of family reunification as much as countries which had continued to send a steady stream of emigrants to the US. The Taoiseach discussed this problem with the political leaders in the Irish-American community during his visit to Washington in March 1987, barely a week after the formation of the Government. He took this matter up at a very high level in the United States for the first time and it was that which led to the introduction of two Bills which are now in progress: the Kennedy-Simpson Bill which was approved by an overwhelming vote in the Senate and the corresponding Schumer-Donnelly Bill in the House of Representatives.
I would like to comment on the statement made by Senator Connor that he deplored the fact that this Bill was languishing in Congress. This Bill has been one of the fastest Bills to move so far through Capitol Hill. That is mainly  due to the efforts on both sides of the Atlantic, by the Government here and by our diplomatic people in the United States. Far from languishing, the Bill is being actively considered. I will refer in detail in a moment to the success it is having. The main provisions of those Bills are well known to Senators. They provide for the creation of a new independent visa category in US law. Under this 55,000 extra visas will be available annually. It is hoped that Irish applicants will benefit substantially from these. They also provide for the allocation of these new visas by means of a points system based on criteria which should favour the type of well educated young Irish people who leave our shores for the US and an additional 30,000 visas to reduce the existing backlog in the fifth, the brother and sister, preference category — the category where currently there is the biggest backlog from our point of view.
Concern was voiced here last week about one of the provisions of those Bills — the requirement that applicants have to be outside the US when lodging their application. I would like to make a few comments on that. In the first place we are talking of draft legislation and it is not possible to say with certainty at this stage what the final form of these provisions will be. We are, however, discussing this with the drafters of the proposal. Furthermore a considerable amount will depend on the regulations under which the legislation will be administered by the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service. These will be drawn up on the passing of this Act. Again we will ensure that our concerns are made known. Indeed, if precedent is anything to go by, in particular with regard to the NP5 visas, we can expect a very positive situation to emanate for young Irish people who are illegally in the US rather than the negative expectancy of Senator Connor.
I would like to pay tribute to the people who are involved in ensuring that the Bill is successful in the first instance and that it will suit young Irish people who are in the US. In particular I would like to pay tribute to Ambassador McKiernan, our  ambassador in Washington, and to our consuls, Daithi Ó Ceallaigh in New York and Brendan Scannell in Boston. I am very proud to be Irish, considering the way in which our diplomats in the United States are able to put forward the Irish viewpoint at every level, up to the very highest level. Clearly they have played a very important role so far in the success of this legislation. I would personally like to compliment them on the work they have done. Indeed that stretches further to the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs here at home. We are indebted to those diplomats for the progress being made in regard to this legislation. The officials in the American Embassy and Ambassador Heckler have also been very supportive in having progress made and that should not go unnoticed.
Senators also wondered whether this legislation will be passed this year. It is not our intention to build up false hopes, or to pretend that difficulties do not exist. Allowances must be made for the US legislative system which is much more complex than ours, a complexity increasing in particular in a year which sees both Congressional as well as Presidential elections. However, we are hopeful that legislation will be approved and enacted before the autumn. Because of the diplomatic approach that has been, is being and will continue to be taken by our people throughout the United States and because of the very worthwhile political initiatives that have been taken, in particular by the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, I am confident that this legislation will get over the difficult hurdles and we will see it passed before Congress falls towards the end of the autumn.
The Taoiseach, during his most recent visit to the United States, took the opportunity to discuss the measures further with prominent Irish-American politicians and to encourage strongly the progress which has been made to date. I assure the House that the Government will continue to watch the developing debate most closely and to take whatever  action they consider necessary or desirable to further the prospects of legislative reform.
Turning to the second prong of our approach, we have also addressed the immediate problems facing the out of status Irish. When we took office there was a clear need to bring together the expertise of the various bodies in the immigration area, to clarify the real problems faced by our emigrants and to tackle the most pressing welfare issues, in particular medical care. The Government took action immediately. First, the Tánaiste established the emigration working committees in New York and Boston under the auspices of our Consulate Generals in those two cities. These comprise the main bodies active in the immigration area, the AOH, the Irish Immigration Reform Movement, Catholic charities, business and labour representatives and city services. The committees meet regularly to consider and act on welfare and other issues affecting our people.
During his recent visit, the Taoiseach met the two committees and received from them a first-hand account of their work and of the problems facing our young people in the United States. He expressed the deep appreciation of the Government for the hard work and dedication demonstrated by the organisations involved and assured them of the Government's continuing support for their activities. I would like formally to endorse those sentiments on the record of the House.
A second step we took was to appoint an additional officer to the New York Consulate to act as an immigrant liaison officer. Since last autumn he has been working full time on emigration matters, maintaining liaison with immigration services as well as providing advice and help to individuals. I would like to compliment James Farrell on the wonderful work he has done in New York, ably assisted by Ann Barrington of the staff of our Consulate office there.
Thirdly, we have up-graded the advisory services at all other Consulates in Chicago and in San Francisco. Although  the problem is less acute in those cities, staff of the Consultates have stepped up their contacts with immigration groups and with city authorities. Fourthly, we have encouraged city and Church authorities to improve the facilities available to immigrants, in particular health services. Although certain private firms provide health insurance to illegal immigrants in the same way as to US citizens, we are aware that many young people in the US fail to obtain medical cover. To provide a safety net for these, city and Church authorities in New York and Boston have undertaken that legal and financial status will not be an obstacle in regard to hospital services. In addition the Catholic Church in New York has established a special project, known as Project Irish Outreach, to provide assistance and advice to our emigrants. We owe the Mayors of Boston and New York and Cardinals O'Connor and Law in both cities our gratitude for their work on behalf of our people.
With regard to the point made by Senator Reynolds that people are having difficulties, if he brings those specific cases to my attention I will certainly have them examined. I am aware that much progress is being made in this regard since I was in the United States in January. Fifthly, we have prepared booklets in New York and Boston outlining the range of medical, legal and housing services available to Irish immigrants in those cities. The New York booklet is being published and the Boston booklet will be published shortly.
Lastly, we have instituted a series of regular ministerial visits to the US to ensure that the subject is kept under constant review. As well as the two visits by the Taoiseach since March, there have been three visits by the Tánaiste and one by myself in the same period. The prime purpose of those visits was to monitor the progress being made in both areas of our concern, legislative reform and welfare issues, and to take whatever action was necessary to make our efforts more effective.
During my visit in January I attended meetings of the working committees  based in New York and Boston. I made direct contact with Church and civic leaders in both cities and talked with representatives of groups comprising the working groups. In addition, I discussed the legislative reform package with the aid of prominent Irish-American politicians in Washington, in particular Senator Kennedy. The Ministers for Justice and the Environment and the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach also made a specific point of raising the immigration issue while in the US during the St. Patrick's Day celebration. I believe the measures we have taken over the past year have resulted in a much improved network of facilities to provide help and advice for our emigrants. I want to assure the House that we shall continue to develop our services in response to our people's needs.
Since his return, the Taoiseach has caused a review to be carried out on the administrative response here at home to the current level of emigration. I am glad to say that he has decided that a special inter-departmental committee should now be established to co-ordinate the Government's efforts in matters relating to emigration and, in particular, the provision of advisory and information services for intending emigrants and those already abroad. Consultation between different Departments was already taking place but this new arrangement is designed to put it on a more structured and co-ordinated footing.
The measures we have taken at home and abroad are a signal to the new generation of Irish overseas that we have not forgotten them and that this Government care for all their citizens, wherever they may be. In due course we hope that many of our emigrants will return and put their enterprise and experience to work here in Ireland. To eliminate the causes of emigration and to ameliorate its effects require a concentrated national effort. I am disappointed that the motion before the House does not recognise this and seeks instead to denigrate the work of the Government over the past year. For this reason I recommend that it be rejected.
Mr. Norris: First, I regret that I cannot wholeheartedly support this motion because I am concerned about the wording of the Preamble. I can of course support the principal substance, as every decent person in this country can. There is nothing divisive about paragraphs Nos. 1, 2 or 3. We owe it to our young people who, by virtue of economic circumstances, have been compelled to emigrate to look after and service their needs as fully as possible. The support obtained in the US Houses of Congress for legislative initiatives such as the Kennedy-Donnelly Bill, which seeks to change their status, is obviously a desirable objective. The establishment of support and advice centres in the principal American cities is something that leads to no contention whatever. I would make the point, and make it strongly, that if we are serious about our concern for our many thousands of young people who are now in the United States of America, we should take on board the very clear message that the last thing they need is party bickering here at home. It is a moment at which the people of this country require to be united behind the leadership of the country in seeking to achieve the maximum possible advantage for our citizens.
This is one further occasion on which I am very glad I am an Independent Senator because it means I can give an independent viewpoint and independent support if necessary to the Government if I think they are doing a reasonably good job in this matter. We owe it to the people in the United States of America to get our act together, to respond in a statesmanlike manner and to avoid petty point-scoring on a party political basis. I appeal to both principal parties, the Government and Opposition, to make a united drive with regard to this very serious problem. If one looks at the record, it is perfectly clear that the average Irish citizen would say when confronting unemployment, emigration and the tax situation: “A plague on both your Houses”. No persons involved in a political party in this country can totally exonerate themselves from responsibility  for what has happened over the past 15 or 20 years.
In 1975 Professor Brendan Walsh produced a research document through the Economic and Social Research Institute examining demographic trends in this country which clearly showed that he at least anticipated the scale of this problem. The politicians during this period — I remember it so well and with such a sense of irony — told us that we had a great national resource, our young people. They boasted about the fact that we had the youngest electorate in the European Economic Community. This great national resource has been transformed, because of our absolute lack of a capacity for coherent planning, into our greatest national liability. It is rather interesting that many of the young people interviewed on radio who have emigrated have chosen to emigrate. They made a conscious choice, unlike in previous times of emigration. The rates of taxation here are so penal that they feel they do not have any prospect of reasonable satisfaction in economic or domestic terms, particularly young people setting out in life and seeking to get married. This is the responsibility of all of us, but particularly the responsibility of the political parties.
I say this because I think it is remarkable that the present Government — God knows I am not a member of Fianna Fáil — have at last sought to attack the underlying causes of decay in the economy. I can say this without fear of contradiction because this has been clearly taken on board by the other principal party in the Dáil. There is a very welcome and extraordinarily courageous degree of consensus on this matter in the Lower House at the moment. I note, for example, the speeches of the leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Dukes recently, and also the speeches of Deputy Michael Noonan. There has been a courageous attempt to reach consensus politics.
Is there something different about the Upper House that we have what is clearly contentious wording in the Preamble which does not really affect the substance of the motion? I want to know if the Fine Gael Party in the Upper House are out  of step with the Fine Gael Party in the Lower House. I appeal to them to consider withdrawing the contentious wording in the first part of the motion. It does not do the young people in the United States of America the slightest good for one party to condemn another here. We should be united. We should, particularly as an Upper House, rise above the pettiness of political party point scoring. I appeal to them to delete the contentious wording and retain the substance of this motion.
I believe we must think positively. We must look at the situation. There was much that was positive in what was said from the Opposition benches on this matter. In an earlier debate attention was drawn, by myself among other people, to the serious problems encountered by illegal immigrants in the United States with regard to medical insurance. I welcome the fact that this has apparently — I too trust the Minister on this — been brought up with the authorities at the highest level in the United States and some degree of movement appears to have been gained.
I am also seriously concerned about the fact that we are exporting naive, unsophisticated people from rural areas of this country, and let me assure the Minister that we are. I have this on authority from people who are working in New York with victims of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. I have to say that we have a real responsibility to make sure that our programme of education is such that people are not catapulted into the lowest areas of New York where they may go out with their friends, get drunk and land themselves into a situation of freely available sexual enjoyment of various kinds, unprotected, and may very rapidly find themselves in real and irreversable trouble. I have that on the authority of a marvellous priest, Fr. Bernard Lynch, who to the great credit of this country has done extraordinary work among the communities in New York who have been the principal victims of this disease. There is a certain amount that needs to be done there. We must take the views of the representatives of  the immigrant groups in New York and the other principal cities. There are things we can do here. I think there is an economic key to this matter. There is general consensus, as I have said, that the Government are beginning to attack this in the appropriate way.
I would like also to refer to the universities and not, I hope, in a petty way. I refer to what I see as a very remarkable, courageous and innovative thing that my colleagues in University College, Dublin, have embarked upon, that is, a £20 million scheme for promoting graduate research fellowship. They at last have woken up to the fact that we have extraordinary talent in this country. We have people of great intellectual gifts. Why should we squander these by sending them abroad. I welcome the initiative shown by University College, Dublin, in seeking to implement a major programme that will reward young people here for their talents and put this expertise back into the active commercial life of this country. We need more of this kind of positive thinking and also more support for our excellent diplomats. I have had some small experience of our diplomatic mission both in the United States and in Canada. I can echo the Minister's praise of the personnel involved there. I wonder what they may be feeling when they are working so hard and they see divisive wording in such an important motion. We should cut out everything that is divisive and lend total support to the people who are operating on our behalf diplomatically.
This problem is not new. Unfortunately the sixties and early seventies were an aberration, statistically speaking. Recently I have been reading the new biography of Lady Morgan who wrote The Wild Irish Girl (Glorvina). Lady Morgan, in the 1830s and 1840s, was worried about precisely the same thing. As my distinguished colleague Senator Murphy has said, this has alas been a feature of Irish life for a considerable time and he produced historical evidence to support this. I was proud to be a Member of this House last week when I sat here and listened to the  generosity of what Senator Murphy had to say. He spoke not as a member of a party because he is not, he is an Independent, not just as an Irishman, not just as a Senator, he spoke as a citizen of the world. I would remind the House of his words. He said:
What is now the great problem is the uncontrollable and massive influx from Latin America, Mexico, the Philippines and Asia — though to a lesser extent because the Asians are not a problem but an enormous resource for Americans. As for the others, the Mexicans, the Hispanics and so on, they are the wretched refuse of the new teeming shores. They are the huddled masses yearning to be free. They are the Irish of the 20th century. If there is a grand and generous American tradition of welcoming the wretched of the earth to their shores, they are the people who are the real pity and they are the people who inspire pity from the most noble hearted Americans of our time.
Mr. Norris: If we can catch the generous timbre, the generous quality in that voice of Senator Murphy, we will have gone a long way to supporting actively the real interests of our people abroad. I can say in conclusion that while I support the substance, paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, of this Bill I cannot support the Preamble. If Fine Gael are generous and responsible, as they normally are, and remove the sections condemning an ineffective and uncaring approach, I will support the motion. If they do not, I will either abstain or vote against it.
Mr. Hogan: I thank Senator Connor for allowing me five minutes of his time. I am glad of the opportunity to speak to this motion tonight because of my recent visit to the United States — to which I am a frequent visitor — in the same area as the Minister of State has been visiting since he took office. I can assure the Minister of State that there are significant problems in relation to illegal Irish immigrants in the United States. It is because of my concern in that regard that I wish to have the opportunity to speak here this evening. The Minister will be aware, and it has been said by a number of speakers during this debate, that young Irish illegal immigrants find it very difficult to become involved in the United States medical care system.
I am glad that the hospitals in particular are treating young Irish immigrants who find themselves in difficulty or who have health care problems. The main difficulty for the young Irish immigrants is the lack of a social security number, many of them use false social security numbers, false bank accounts and false names in order to get into a hospital quickly to get treatment, hope they are not caught in the process. That is not an acceptable position for young people to encounter and it is certainly not acceptable for their parents at home who are genuinely worried about them.
The information that all of us receive from abroad highlights the difficulties people face when searching for work. The recent immigration reform whereby employers are now being fined to a very high degree, up to $10,000, for hiring illegal emigrants of any ethnic group has an effect on the young Irish in their search for work. From my conversations with a number of the young Irish in America, particularly in the Boston area, I can  recall cases in a nursing home where there was a clampdown by the US authorities in relation to the employment of young Irish illegals. In that case the employer was faced with the option of having to suffer the rigorous penalties incurred or close dawn the entire operation. Genuine difficulties are being experienced by the young people in their search for work and this should not be overlooked.
I appeal in this debate that we lobby as strongly as possible the Congressmen in the United States. This may be the last opportunity we will get as a nation to do so. Up to 10,000 extra visas can be got for this country through the latest immigration reform sponsored by Congressman Donnelly and Senator Kennedy and we must welcome their move. It is not good enough to be criss-crossing the Atlantic as the Minister has been doing. Each of us must use every contact we have in order to tap into the source of political initiative which Congressman Donnelly, in particular, has been taking and to get widespread support for this initiative in Congress. There is every chance that it could be defeated and we should redouble our efforts now to ensure that it will be successful.
I want to take this opportunity to compliment all US politicians who have taken an interest in Irish affairs. In a year of a US Presidential election we can capitalise on the ethnic Irish flavour we have generated over there. There is a significant Irish electorate over there. We must make make it possible for more young Irish people to get more visas, otherwise we will have to force the situation and an extension of the 1980 amnesty will be the only answer.
Mr. Connor: I thank all who contributed to the debate. The first comment I would like to make is in response to what Senator Norris said about the wording of the Bill. He said he finds it contentious and feels he cannot vote with us unless we change it. Maybe the wording is contentious in certain political opinion. If it is contentious, but nevertheless true,  it must stay on the record and the motion as proposed by us will have to stay.
In regard to the Minister's comments, there is little I want to say because I made all the points last week. The Minister came back this evening, and often in a defensive way acting like an angry young man, he tried to attack many of the points I made. The points I made are factual. The genesis of the problem is firm. It started in the mid-seventies because of the madness of the policies that were pursued. Senator Norris referred to an observer at the time commenting that we were building up for ourselves a store of trouble if we did not pursue the right economic policy which would absorb the thousands of children in the sixties who would be young adults looking for work in the eighties. That is the genesis of the problem. That is when it all started. It showed up in the eighties because of what was done in the mid-seventies. On the hands of the Minister and the Government he represents, lies the greatest blame for that tragedy.
Mr. Mooney: On a point of order, the wording of the motion has nothing to do with the economic policies of the Government. It relates specifically to the effectiveness or otherwise of their policy in relation to the illegals in America.
Mr. Connor: In summing up, I would like to deal with something I did not cover last week, that is, the plight of Irish emigrants to the United Kingdom. There are no official figures for people going to the United Kingdom or, indeed, for people going to the United States. However, the 1986 census shows that between——
Mr. Mooney: On a point of information, what has emigration to the United Kingdom to do with the wording of the motion? I do not wish to stop Senator Connor in midstream, but have his comments any relevance to the motion before the House?
Mr. Connor: I hope the Cathaoirleach gives me injury time for these interruptions. The 1986 census showed that between April 1985 and April 1986 31,000 left this country. However, if you look at the statistics of the welfare agencies in London alone for 1986, a far greater number are leaving than is suggested. In 1986, the Irish Centre in Camden dealt with 6,000 Irish emigrants, mostly newcomers, who had various problems, some of them very acute, in relation to unemployment, homelessness and illness. The Irish Centre in Hammersmith dealt with 7,000 such persons in 1986 with similar problems. Harringay Irish Community Centre dealt with 7,500 Irish emigrants, again most newcomers in difficulty. The Centrepoint night shelter had 2,000 youngsters of different nationalities under 19 years of age seeking shelter for varying lengths of time during 1986, and 25 per cent were Irish. The Irish were numerically the largest ethnic group seeking this very basic assistance in London.
On Monday last, I and three of my colleagues — Senator Bradford, Deputy Peter Barry and Deputy Jim Higgins — met various groups working for the welfare of Irish emigrants in London. All of them unequivocally told us of the need for greater funding for the advice and welfare services for emigrants in Britain and for a proper pre-emigration advice and preparation service for them at home before they leave.
One of the groups we met, the Action Group for Irish Youth, a group of excellent young people, gave us some pretty harrowing facts and figures on the plight of many of the young Irish in London. The result of one survey they gave us  showed that 72 per cent of the young Irish people arriving in London were unemployed or never held a job before going to London, showing the degree to which modern emigration to the United Kingdom is forced. Thirty four per cent of the people surveyed had less than £30 in their pocket when they arrived and almost all had less than £100 when they arrived. Sixty one per cent came to London alone and 60 per cent had no prior arrangement for accommodation on arrival in London. Twenty per cent spent their first night——
Mr. Connor: Since there was no effective argument made to gainsay what I said last week, other than what I have to describe as quite inaccurate or political point scoring, and since the motion deals with our emigrants in the United Kingdom, I feel quite free to make these comments.
Mr. Connor: I found your rulings very severe. If my remark offends you I will withdraw it; nevertheless I would like it to remain on the record that I have found many of your rulings towards me severe.
Mr. Connor: The result of a study carried out by the London Strategic Policy Unit, a body acting on behalf of all the councils in the Greater London area shows that the Irish have the second highest rate of unemployment in London among all the ethnic groups. The group with the highest rate is the Afro-Caribbean community. The survey also showed that the Irish feature disproportionately in London's poorest housing and the Irish are disproportionately concentrated in private rented accommodation. Private rented accommodation is some of the worst in London——
An Cathaoirleach: You know the rules of this House and you made your opening address last week. You are not entitled — irrespective of who is in the Chair — to come in and make your speech again. You know you are abusing the House and I do not have to tell you that.
Mr. Connor: May I call on the Government to set up a task force to study emigration? This task force must be given the resources to be able to prepare a report for Government action in not more than six months. The task force must look at all the reasons so many young people have to leave this country and suggest policy changes, I mean economic and social policy changes, to tackle the problem. The task force must be given the job of suggesting that a full, adequate pre-emigration advice service should be established throughout the country. At the moment, only one pre-advice service or centre gets official funding from the Government through the DION Committee of the Department of Labour, that is the Church-sponsored advice centre in Cathedral Street, Dublin. There is no use in the Government responding to these arguments by saying FÁS, formerly the national manpower services, are providing information, pre-emigration advice and service. Yes, they can give you a leaflet when you call, but the manpower placement officers, as they were, or their staff were never trained or meant to deal with emigration advice. That is no reflection on them, and even the cursory advice they can give is not advertised.
The task force should also have as part of their remit, after full consultation with all the voluntary immigration advice bodies in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the duty to discuss with these immigration bodies a broad policy by which our Government can more adequately help and fund the work and services of these truly dedicated and marvellous people who are working voluntarily, not just on behalf of our emigrants but on behalf of the country itself.
Cregan, Denis. McCormack, Padraic.
Loughrey, Joachim. McMahon, Larry.
|Bohan, Edward Joseph.
Ó Conchubhair, Nioclás.
O'Toole, Martin J.
Ross, Shane P. N.
Question declared lost.
An Cathaoirleach: When is it proposed to sit again?
Mr. Lanigan: Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
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