In response to a parliamentary written answer and speaking on behalf of the Irish Government, last month the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, reiterated the Irish Governments’ support for the “undocumented Irish” in the U.S. and stated that a resolution for the “undocumented Irish” remained a priority for the Government (full text available here). It is noteworthy that during a debate in the Seanad on the same day (23 October 2013) the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, spoke about the continued need to control “illegal immigration” into Europe in the context of a discussion on asylum and “direct provision” centers in Ireland (available here). Furthermore, in July 2013 Minister Shatter justified the deportation of 10 migrants, referred to as “failed asylum seekers” and ”illegal immigrants”, by stating that Ireland, like other European countries, deport those that have no legal right to be in the country (available here). The use of language is quite important here, as Irish emigrants with an irregular immigration status in the U.S. are referred to as “undocumented”, yet immigrants with an irregular immigration status in Ireland are referred to as “illegal” (previously discussed here). While the difficult situation that many “undocumented Irish” in the U.S. face is acknowledged here, one imagines that if these Irish emigrants were treated in the same way as “illegal immigrants” in Ireland are and they were deported from the U.S. back to Ireland, these Ministers’ and their colleagues would be quite concerned.
From my research into Irish parliamentary texts produced between 2002 and 2009 (available here), during which time two separate governments were in power, this practice of supporting the “undocumented Irish” and attempting to control and prevent “illegal immigration” in Ireland also occurred. I find it striking that this attitude continues today with the “new” coalition government. Attention must be drawn to this hypocritical attitude of government Ministers. How can those in positions of authority have so much compassion for one group of migrants over another? One obvious answer is that the “undocumented Irish” are seen to be part of the Irish Diaspora, part of “our” wider community, while “illegal immigrants” from outside of Ireland are excluded as they are seen to embody the “other”.