Ahern to raise illegals' plight on US trip
Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor
TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern will raise the plight of illegal Irish immigrants in the US during his visit to Washington for St Patrick's Day.
No major progress is expected on the issue, however, before the US presidential elections.
Mr Ahern will be making his final trip to the White House during US President George W Bush's term in office to present the traditional bowl of shamrock.
The Taoiseach will ask for a solution to be found for the illegal immigrants in his meetings with President Bush and leaders on Capitol Hill, Mr Ahern's officials said.
"There will be a further important opportunity to do so during the Taoiseach's visit to Washington in April to address the joint Houses of Congress," a spokesman said.
After the failure of the US congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation last June, the Government tried to find alternative options between the two countries with US administration and congressional contacts, the spokesman said.
"Achieving progress on immigration at this time, in the middle of a presidential campaign, is exceptionally difficult. Despite these considerable political difficulties, the Government is determined to make every effort towards achieving a satisfactory resolution.
"Our ambassador in Washington and his staff are in ongoing detailed discussions with members of congress and the US administration," he added.
The Government is also continuing to work with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
The Taoiseach will depart for the USA tomorrow morning for a two-day trip. He will address the Friendly Sons of St Patrick in Scranton, Pennsylvania, before moving on to Washington.
Aside from his meeting with Mr Bush, he will also attend a lunch hosted by speaker Nancy Pelosi in the Houses of Congress and address a number of business functions.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is in London today for the Ireland-England rugby match in Twickenham and for the city's St Patrick's Day festivities.
Environment Minister John Gormley, who will travel to Britain by ferry, will also be at the rugby match.