By Sister Lena Deevy, L.S.A., Executive Director, Irish International Immigrant Center
Regular readers will know that I had the opportunity to spend the recent Christmas period back in Ireland. On my return I shared some reflections on the visit here in these pages, where I remarked on the generally positive attitude that I’d seen among the people in Ireland, even in the midst of considerable economic and social hardships. Everywhere I went I saw evidence of people pulling together, cooperating, and working past obstacles in order to alleviate the worst effects of the downturn.
Well, I’m delighted to say that I’ve recently seen evidence of a similar positive and proactive approach among the broader Irish diaspora here in the U.S., both at the community and political level. I witnessed this firsthand a couple of weeks ago during Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit. The Irish Network Boston in cooperation with the Irish Consulate hosted a rousing reception that served both to welcome the Taoiseach and to send a message that Boston’s Irish-born and Irish-American community stand united in their resolve to promote Ireland’s interests here in Massachusetts. The Taoiseach for his part presented a very positive message about the direction of Ireland’s continuing recovery.
Just a few weeks before, I was fortunate to have another opportunity to meet the Taoiseach, this time down in New York. He was speaking to board members of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers (CIIC), and Alicia Connors (Executive Director of the Irish Pastoral Centre) and I traveled down together to attend the meeting. We were joined by a whole host of other organizations including the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, (including Bruce Morrison of Morrison Visa era—what a gift in the early 90’s!), the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Celtics of Chicago, all of which are active in the current campaign for the passage of the E3 Visa legislation.
Siobhan Dennehy, Chair of the CIIC, took the opportunity to express thanks to the Taoiseach for the generosity of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, which has been a constant supporter of all our work on behalf of immigrants. Their assistance has allowed us to address challenges facing immigrants whether they concern legal status, unemployment, or personal difficulties and care of the elderly. In praising this work, the Taoiseach pledged the Government’s continuing commitment to Irish immigrants here in the U.S. whether they arrived recently or decades ago. He expressed particular support for the E3 Visa campaign.
That same campaign was on the agenda of recent meetings I had in Washington. I was in DC at the invitation of Jim Lamb, Executive Director of the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh (IIP). Jim asked me to join him in meeting with representatives from the State Department, the Northern Ireland Office, the Embassy of Ireland and key political figures including members of the Friends of Ireland in the United States Congress, Our purpose was twofold: we were there to thank them for their ongoing support of Ireland and their work on the E3 Visa, and to brief them on our peace and reconciliation programs for young unemployed adults from Northern Ireland and the border areas. All of our meetings were very productive and we were grateful for their advice and support and their concern and interest in Ireland.
I’m settled back in Boston now after what seems like a whirlwind of meetings and travel. Everything I have seen, however, underscores the extent to which individuals and organizations are committed to working together to get results both for the immigrant community and for Ireland itself. If we can maintain this spirit of action and cooperation, there is no limit to what we can achieve.