Pat Flynn, Irish Times (Dublin), December 9, 2008
THE UNDOCUMENTED Irish in the United States were discussed at Shannon airport last night when the Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea TD met former US Republican presidential candidate senator John McCain.
After the meeting, Mr O’Dea said: “We met for about 40 minutes and it was very productive and cordial. Senator McCain has committed to raising the issue of the undocumented Irish with president-elect Obama on his return to the US.”
Mr McCain’s aircraft made a refuelling stop at Shannon on his way back to the US after spending the past week on a regional tour with two other members of the senate armed services committee, senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham.
Mr O’Dea was deputising for Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin who is on official business in Brussels.
Mr Martin has already committed to seeking a visa agreement with the US authorities for the “undocumented” Irish in the US. He stated last month that “finding a solution for our undocumented citizens is a key priority.”
Arrangements for last night’s meeting were finalised last Friday but were not publicised for security reasons.
The men also discussed the establishment of the new US customs pre-clearance facility which was agreed between the Irish and US governments last month and which will open in Shannon next year. The facility will speed up the process of entry into the US.