Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 6 Oct 2015

Vol. 891 No. 3

Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

Official Engagements

Micheál Martin


1. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position regarding his breakfast meeting with the Vice President of the United States of America, Mr. Joe Biden; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12766/15]

Micheál Martin


2. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position regarding his meeting with the President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12767/15]

Micheál Martin


3. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position regarding discussions on the undocumented Irish with the President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12768/15]

Micheál Martin


4. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position regarding discussions on Northern Ireland with the President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12769/15]

Micheál Martin


5. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the position regarding the bilateral meetings he attended while in the United States of America in March 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12770/15]

Denis Naughten


6. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his discussions regarding the undocumented Irish during his recent visit to the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12776/15]

Gerry Adams


7. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his visit to the United States of America in March 2015. [12782/15]

Gerry Adams


8. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he met with members of the Irish-American community during his visit to the United States of America in March 2015. [12783/15]

Gerry Adams


9. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12784/15]

Gerry Adams


10. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the Stormont House Agreement with the President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama, and with the leaders of the Congress of the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12785/15]

Gerry Adams


11. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the case of Mr. Pat Finucane with the President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama, and with leaders of the Congress of the United States of America during his visit to the United States of America in March 2015. [12786/15]

Gerry Adams


12. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he met any of the lobby groups working with the undocumented Irish and other groups in the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12787/15]

Gerry Adams


13. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he met with business leaders during his visit to the United States of America in March 2015. [12788/15]

Gerry Adams


14. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he raised the issue of the undocumented Irish with the President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama, and the Government of the United States of America during his visit in March 2015. [12789/15]

Gerry Adams


15. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he spoke to the President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama, during his Saint Patrick’s Day visit concerning the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12791/15]

Gerry Adams


16. Deputy Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach if he spoke to the President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama, regarding the plight of the increasing number of refugees arising from the conflicts in the Middle East. [12792/15]

Micheál Martin


17. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the business leaders he met while in the United States of America in March 2015; if double taxation was discussed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15196/15]

Micheál Martin


18. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he met groups representing the undocumented Irish while in the United States of America; if progress has been made in relation to the undocumented Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15199/15]

Micheál Martin


19. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the names of the Senate representatives in the United States of America with whom he met to discuss the undocumented Irish; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15200/15]

Richard Boyd Barrett


20. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach the outcome of discussions regarding the undocumented Irish in the United States of America at his meeting with the American President, Mr. Barack Obama; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32856/15]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 20, inclusive, together.

St. Patrick's Day has become a truly global festival, which presents us with an unparalleled opportunity to engage with political decision makers to advance Irish causes and advocate on their behalf and to focus on our number one priority of job creation by promoting Ireland as a preferred partner for trade and investment, as the home of world-leading products, services and companies and as a high-quality destination for tourists and international students.

This year, my visit to the United States encompassed Atlanta, Austin and Washington DC, with a programme focused on engagement with political leaders at national, state and city level, trade and investment events and company meetings as well as events for the Irish community and friends of Ireland across the US. My principal focus was to highlight Ireland's economic recovery and to enhance our bilateral trade and investment links in order to boost job creation in Ireland. I also took every opportunity to press publicly and privately the case for immigration reform and to advocate for the undocumented Irish not just in meetings with the Administration and the congressional leadership, but with political figures at all levels throughout my visit. On this occasion, my programme did not permit meetings with the groups which lobby incessantly on behalf of the undocumented, although the Government remains in ongoing close contact with them through our embassy and through our consulates in the US.

My programme began in Atlanta, Georgia, where my engagements included a number of business-focused events, including at the Irish chamber of commerce in Atlanta, where I delivered a keynote address on Ireland's economic recovery, and a round-table engagement with IDA Ireland client companies and potential investors from the Atlanta region. I also held meetings with companies, including Coca-Cola, which is a major investor throughout Ireland, and Oldcastle, which is the largest Irish-owned company in the United States.

I had a range of engagements with senior political figures, including the Governor of Georgia, Mr. Nathan Deal, and the mayor of Atlanta, Mr. Kasim Reed. I also had the opportunity to engage with both Senators from the state of Georgia, Mr. Johnny Isakson and Mr. David Perdue. Our discussions covered business links between Georgia and Ireland, immigration reform and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP. I might say that the appointment of a consulate there was really worthwhile in the sense of making arrangements for contacts, with political personnel from here meeting business personnel and politicians from that area.

I had the opportunity to engage with the wider Irish community as well as a number of influential friends of Ireland at a range of other events. These included the St. Patrick's Day dignitaries breakfast, which took place before the Atlanta parade which I attended as grand marshal, the Irish consul general's St. Patrick's Day reception, a meeting with the Atlanta-based members of the Global Irish Network and a traditional Irish community event at Atlanta City Hall dedicated to Fr. O'Reilly, an Irish priest who was responsible for saving city hall, five churches and 400 homes from being burned down during the American Civil War. I also undertook a number of US and international media engagements, including with CNN International, to highlight the message of Ireland's economic recovery.

I travelled from there to Austin, Texas, where my engagements included officially opening the new Ireland House in Austin, which will house our new Consulate General in the city, as well as the Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland offices. Ireland is the first European country to open a consulate in the city, which is America's fastest growing city and has become a major technology hub. I participated in a range of events at South by Southwest Interactive, which has become one of the world's largest technology festivals. I visited the Enterprise Ireland stand, where I met with a number of innovative Irish technology companies, and also spoke at an Enterprise Ireland event focused on enhancing links between the Irish startups and venture capital funds. I participated in a keynote public interview focused on Ireland's strengths as a global technology hub. I also addressed an audience of current and potential investors in Ireland at an event organised by IDA Ireland and I met with senior executives of Dell, which is based in Texas. At political level, I met with the Governor of Texas, Mr. Greg Abbott, where our discussions focused on enhancing the trade and investment relationship between Ireland and Texas as well as immigration reform.

My programme in Washington was primarily focused on high level political engagement and business promotion. My bilateral meeting with President Obama at the White House was positive and wide ranging.

We discussed Ireland's economic recovery and developments within the European Union and the eurozone. We had a useful exchange on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and agreed on the benefits of concluding an ambitious agreement as soon as possible. While we did not discuss any specific cases, we did discuss the situation in Northern Ireland at that time and the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement. The US Administration continues to be a crucial partner in the peace process and is fully familiar with the key issues. I thanked President Obama and Vice President Biden for their personal engagement and for the work of Senator Gary Hart in Northern Ireland. I thanked the President for his efforts on immigration reform and stressed our continued determination to make progress on behalf of the undocumented Irish. We discussed a range of international issues including the Ukraine crisis, the Ebola outbreak, the threat posed by ISIS and the prospects for both the Middle East peace process and the non-proliferation treaty. On this occasion, we did not specifically discuss the issue of refugees displaced by conflicts in the Middle East.

I attended the traditional breakfast hosted by the Vice President, Joe Biden, and the lunch hosted by the Speaker, Mr. John Boehner. I also held meetings with a number of other congressional leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Pat Leahy and a number of other senior figures including the Congressional Friends of Ireland group. In each of these engagements I emphasised the importance we attach to addressing the plight of the undocumented Irish and I urged all sides to work towards achieving immigration reform. I also raised this issue with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, during his visit to Ireland on 2 July. As recently as last week, the Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan, engaged with congressional contacts on these issues during his visit to Washington DC.

I had a number of business-focused engagements, including a high level roundtable organised by the US Chamber of Commerce and a business leaders lunch organised by our enterprise promotion agencies. I addressed a Science Foundation Ireland event to announce new industry-academic partnerships and to honour prominent Irish and Irish-American scientists. I addressed the American Ireland Fund gala dinner, which gathered contributors to the fund and key members of the Irish-American community. In addition to talking about Ireland's economic recovery, I paid tribute to the important work of the fund in contributing to peace and reconciliation on this island. I was pleased to have the opportunity to launch the Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts and Culture event, which will take place next year at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and will form a centrepiece of our global commemorations of the 1916 Rising.

Overall, my visit to the United States in March was extremely positive. There was an extraordinary level of interest in Ireland's improving economic recovery, as well as tremendous confidence and optimism about the potential for further job creation and for further trade, investment and tourism.

While I thank the Taoiseach for his reply, before proceeding any further Members should note some of these questions have been awaiting a reply for at least six months. There have been ongoing cancellations for various reasons of the weekly Taoiseach's questions and they never have been rescheduled. It is a demonstration of the Government's ongoing disdain for this House and for accountability to the House.

All Members welcome the recent executive action by President Obama regarding the undocumented and migration in general. It has removed some of the most immediate pressure from undocumented people in the United States but as Members are aware, it only goes as far as presidential control of the Executive branch extends and the substantive issue of providing long-term security to the undocumented has not been addressed. In his reply, the Taoiseach mentioned meeting various members of Congress and I am worried by what appears to be an increasing trend. Certainly, the current anti-immigrant tone of some of the statements made by presidential candidates, for example, is not something that would give one hope that the Republican Party will end its blocking of comprehensive immigration reform any time soon and that has been one of the major blockages to immigration reform. We should join in the condemnation of statements that demonise and vilify economic migrants, from wherever they are, and I ask the Taoiseach to agree to this request. Some highly inflammatory comments have been made in the context of the presidential election in the United States by certain candidates regarding economic migrants, which is unacceptable and we should be forthright in our views in this regard. The plight of the undocumented is a matter on which work should continue. The Taoiseach has had a series of meetings but stated he did not meet the lobby groups on that occasion. I am not sure whether the ebb and flow of elections will make a deal possible but lobbying does matter. What has been prepared in respect of lobbying the new leadership of the House of Representatives? As the Taoiseach is aware, there has been a change recently and he might indicate to Members whether the Government has fresh plans to lobby on behalf of the undocumented.

In his reply, the Taoiseach also mentioned a meeting that involved a number of key scientists and this is a good opportunity to comment on the awarding of the Nobel Prize for medicine to County Donegal native, Professor Bill Campbell, who is one of a significant number of Irish research scientists working in American universities and research facilities. Professor Campbell's work is benefiting millions and the warm congratulations of the House are due to him. The Taoiseach may be unaware he did not receive acknowledgement in the Government's St. Patrick's Day science event and perhaps this will be remedied or addressed next year. He deserves some acknowledgement by the State for his achievements, at least an acknowledgement on St. Patrick's Day, which he did not receive this year. From 1997 onwards, a major policy shift was made in attracting home Irish researchers but this has gone directly into reverse over the past three years. There has been a significant change in science and research policy in Ireland by the Government. As a petition signed by more than 800 internationally recognised competitive and leading researchers in Irish universities stated earlier this year, Government policy is pushing them directly out of the country. I reiterate that 800 people signed that petition. The problem is that basic research, exactly the kind of research undertaken by Professor Campbell, has been downgraded for funding and the area of non-commercially linked basic research in medicine has been removed from funding schemes. Ireland's most internationally successful research group, the immunology research centre in Trinity College, was unable to secure funding from the main Science Foundation Ireland scheme despite being the facility ranked number one in the world. It has had that leading position because of its publications and so on for quite some time now. Consequently, I put it to the Taoiseach that when he meets American leaders and when he travels to the United States, it is time to stop the speeches and telling people about our commitment to basic research and pure science but he should do something to keep research scientists in Ireland. This is a significant issue for the future of the country and is one on which the Taoiseach has fallen down.

I thank Deputy Martin. I realise these questions are relevant to a period from quite a number of months ago but I believe the offer always was there to have a written reply granted immediately. While that was not requested, it applies in all cases. As I stated, I congratulated the President on his executive action on immigration and met Senators Reid, McConnell and Leahy, as well as the Friends of Ireland. I do not think much will happen now in respect of long-term immigration reform in the United States, given the run-in to the difficulties the parties are having and the preparations for the beginning of primaries and so on for the presidential election later next year. I hope that would not be right and in speaking to the ambassador to the United States in New York at the United Nations last week, she made the point that she continues to work diligently with the Representatives on the Hill about this matter and a number of other opportunities that may arise in respect of surplus quotas granted to other nations which may be considered important, as well as to speak to Speaker Boehner before he retires officially from the role of Speaker as to requests he may wish to make in that regard. I agree with the Deputy; inflammatory comments by candidates are not warranted, particularly with regard to immigrant people. Do we ourselves not know about that more than anybody?

I happened to be in Strokestown Park House in Roscommon yesterday. More than 3,000 people were evicted from that estate and 1,400 had to walk to Dublin, take the boat to Liverpool and take their chances on coffin ships to Canada and the United States. If the Deputy has the chance some time, he should visit the museum there and see the pictures from Eritrea and the pictures from Ireland of 1843 and 1845. There is very little difference between them.

The comments being made by some candidates in respect of immigrant people are to be condemned. I opened a facility here in Dublin recently, the chief financial executive of which is an immigrant person who came here with parents who acquired refugee status. That contributes greatly to the running of our economy, and we should be very proud of that mix. I agree with the Deputy that comments being made by candidates in these elections are not warranted and should be condemned.

I agree with Deputy Martin on the question of the Nobel prize in terms of complimenting Professor Campbell for his works.

Speaking to Science Foundation Ireland and the Institute for Research and Innovation, I am aware this is an area that is increasing in importance. Given the limited financial resources available over recent years, perhaps the focus was not as strong as it should have been, but it has been stronger than it was and I would like to see that continue. When Prime Minister Modi was here in the past fortnight, we spoke about this, and the research going on in Ireland in terms of polluted water and all the advantages Ireland is showing in that kind of research and development is of interest to a country the scale of India with its huge numbers.

In terms of the United States, we do not have the same bursary facilities that apply in universities there. Clearly, it is an advantage for major universities in the US to be able to offer serious endowments and financial inducements to international people of that calibre to work in their institutions.

The Health Research Board funds a good deal of research. The demonstration hub it set up in Cork, in Deputy Martin's own place, for research and innovation specialises in having IT scientists and specialists in that area. If we are heading towards serious changes in the frontiers ahead, science, research and innovation will be of more importance. The science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM, subjects in their own way are attracting more young people to do mathematics, physics, technology and science. We hope that continues and whatever encouragement has to be given will be given.

I take the Deputy's point about keeping qualified scientific people in this country. We have many of them but maybe it is not all that it should be in terms of what the State offers. We will try to begin addressing that in Tuesday's budget by again reducing the overall level of taxation that applies here because that has become an issue for people who want to work in a country like Ireland where the top rate of tax is seen as too heavy. Government will make a decision on that next week. I thank the Deputy for those comments.

Can I pick up on the Taoiseach's comment that there is unlikely to be progress on comprehensive immigration reform this side of the US presidential election, particularly with regard to some of the commentary we have seen from candidates? We all want to acknowledge the executive action that has been taken by President Obama, but is there an opportunity for some form of an immigration Bill to be introduced before John Boehner departs as Speaker of the House in the next month? Has the Taoiseach any indication on that? I know the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, met Congressman Sensenbrenner and he intends to bring forward legislation on E3 visas which would allow people to emigrate from Ireland to live and work in the United States and access visas, amounting to approximately 10,000 per annum. Can progress be made on that? I ask that question because if we cannot make progress on a comprehensive solution in the United States, can we look at specific solutions, such as the E3 visa, that can address specific problems faced by the Irish? To make it a success, however, we need to be able to ensure young people who are stuck in the United States can come back to Ireland, avail of that E3 visa, and return to the US.

Is the Taoiseach aware that the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform is saying that while about one third of people undocumented in the US could avail of existing visas available through the Irish embassy here, because of the three and ten-year bars that are in place for someone resident and undocumented in the United States, they cannot come back to Ireland to avail of that? Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic have been very successful in using that as a mechanism to deal with their undocumented issue.

The issue is being raised consistently and I received a leaflet again today to the effect that the Irish Government has not sought that visa from Ambassador O'Malley in the Phoenix Park. While a request has been written by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, there has not been a formal request from the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs for the introduction of this executive waiver which would unlock a problem for about one third of the undocumented in the United States.

I do not know the ins and outs of this but I would like the Taoiseach to clarify that for me because it is being circulated widely that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs are not prepared personally to seek this executive waiver. If they did, it would be made available to undocumented Irish in the United States and could allow a significant number of those to come back to Ireland to avail of a visa to go back into the US. Clarity on that issue is needed. I hope we will see some progress by John Boehner on the issue, even in the current short window, because every opportunity needs to be taken to see if we can push that along.

Deputy Naughten will be aware from his experience of how this operates in the United States in terms of having two Houses that function, both Senate and Congress. Given what is happening there at the moment, where there is a degree of polarity between the two Houses and the two major parties, I do not see it happening. I might be wrong and I hope I am.

President Obama made his executive decision, which is quite limited. It was blocked in the Houses afterwards. I met Speaker Boehner, Representative McConnell, Representative Reid, Representative Leahy, the Friends of Ireland and so on and made this case very strongly. Some of the politicians would say they would see an opportunity to tag one element of a bill onto another, which could go through the House but then they may not have the votes, and it is a question of whether they could get a certain number of Democrats or Republicans. It has not worked with Speaker Boehner in situ and, with respect to them all, I do not see it moving along now.

The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, met Representative Jim Sensenbrenner in another attempt to get E3s. I hope that yields some progress. There is the facility that Australia never used up all its visas, and perhaps these might be transferable to another country. That might not be possible. It might be taken as a poor signal from one country that has not used up all the visas allocated to it, but we have personnel who could do that.

I will tell Deputy Naughten something else. I am very concerned now at what is purported to be happening in respect of J1 visas. Deputy Naughten will be aware that approximately 7,500 of our young people go to America every year on a J1 visa. This represents an extraordinary opportunity for young people to experience American life, the personality of America, the experience of working in America and to make new contacts. Obviously, this brought its own tragedy in Berkeley earlier this year. Anyway, because of a series of issues that have arisen, the authorities that issue J1 visas seem to be bent on introducing a requirement for pre-employment for young people before they go. I am unaware of the extent of the paperwork and administration that may be involved, but if that were to happen it could lead to two things. First, a serious reduction in the number of J1 visas granted to Ireland; it could perhaps be down by as much as 60% or 80%. Second, people who travel out on holiday visas may then decide to work illegally, which would only cause trouble for themselves and everyone else afterwards. A number of areas require political clarity about what is required. When I met the US Senator, Mr. McCain, about this matter he said that thousands of workers who come from Mexico might be better having a short-term working visa because many go home to their families when the crops are all in and the harvest is gathered, as the song goes. I think it was a Woody Guthrie song - I am showing my age.

The Taoiseach may need to explain that to Deputy Kevin Humphreys.

In any event, I believe this is going to be problematic, particularly for a country like Ireland. The nature of our traditional connection 50 or 60 years ago and before was that people left and never came back. This has changed now. I firmly believe that the J1 system has been important in keeping that connection alive in the modern sense with young people in university and throughout the country working in America for the summer and so on. It keeps the connections between our countries very much alive currently and for the future. If that is going to be reduced seriously then it could cause real problems for relationships in the time ahead.

I believe everyone in the House has the same view on the matter. We are keen to have a streamlined, effective strategy. However, this requires political will and acceptance. Unfortunately, because of the situation that applies between the US Congress and Senate, these are not in place at the moment. Some members of the US Republican and Democratic parties are willing to work on these things to try to get the numbers and tag the facility on to an existing Bill that will go through towards the end of this session. That is what is needed.

When I was out there last year, the idea was being put forward very strongly that the best time to introduce either an Irish immigration element or major immigration reform would be at the start of the approaching session, that is to say, in September or October last year, but that did not happen. Now, things are moving on in the United States and they are campaigning with different party credentials for candidacy and I imagine it will be difficult. Anyway, I will certainly work with all Members and through our ambassador and consulates in constantly contacting the personnel there about E3 visas and an element of immigration reform in the absence of overall immigration reform. Certainly I am not keen on a situation where there would be an abrupt ending to the J1 system as we know it through the dramatic introduction of a requirement for pre-employment. Independent authorities grant these visas. If that is being considered by them, and it is, then there should be a transition period during which young Irish people would be able to go to many different places in the United States and not only be congregated in one or two locations, which has its own implications.

This is a serious matter and something I am prepared to talk to the US ambassador about. I have discussed with him previously the three-year bar and ten-year bar and I will follow up on the point Deputy Naughten raised. Through the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and everyone else, we should keep in contact with the ambassador, the consulates and American political representatives. Unfortunately, I believe deep down that we are not going to have major immigration reform now. If the Sensenbrenner initiative works or the efforts being made now by our ambassador, H.E. Ms Anderson, come to fruition and give a few extra visas that are in the system but not allocated to Ireland, that may be of interest to us as well.

Deputy McDonald, on behalf of Deputy Adams, is next.

Ten of the 20 questions to which the Taoiseach is responding are in the name of Deputy Adams, so please bear with me.

Not many harvests are being gathered in Ringsend or Pearse Street. Deputy Humphreys looked a little puzzled by the Taoiseach's Woody Guthrie reference.

Yes. It is in one of his songs.

Yes. I have heard of him.

Does Deputy McDonald not remember? I will send on a CD.

No. It was before my time.

Obviously, the development the Taoiseach has described around the J1 visas is concerning. Will the Taoiseach set out exactly what he has done about it so far by way of engagement or representation? Although that is concerning, it is secondary to the longer-standing and deeper concern for the undocumented or those who have overstayed various visas in the United States. I know this is a matter on which the House is united in looking for a resolution. However, what I am not clear on, outside of the Taoiseach's visits to the United States, especially on the occasion of St. Patrick's Day, is the rhythm of the Taoiseach's engagement on this issue. How regularly does the Taoiseach, personally, or his Department intervene and interface with members of the US Congress or the US ambassador in Dublin? I am keen to get a sense of how that works. Can the Taoiseach set out the supports afforded by the Taoiseach's Administration to those groups which, as he has said, work incessantly or tirelessly on behalf of the undocumented stateside?

I warmly welcome the remarks the Taoiseach has made in respect of the rather vile commentary in respect of immigrants to the United States. It is not only ourselves as an emigrant nation who understand that phenomenon. The United States is built on the immigrant experience, not only from our shores but from further afield. I very much welcome the Taoiseach's comments.

When the Taoiseach met President Obama, did he discuss the current refugee crisis, the Syrian crisis? What was the content of that exchange? What discussions has the Taoiseach had in respect of the Stormont House Agreement? As we know, the negotiations are under way. The Taoiseach has acknowledged that the North is a special case in many respects since it is coming out of a period of protracted conflict. All of us support and understand the concept of not only peace but a peace dividend in economic terms. Will the Taoiseach press for the restoration of the block grant budget that has been stripped of £1.5 billion? This looms large in the current negotiations. Has the Taoiseach pressed for a workable budget for the institutions? Will the Taoiseach honour his commitments in respect of the construction of the A5 motorway? Did any of these matters form part of the discussion the Taoiseach had with the President of the United States?

Question No. 29 relates to human rights lawyer Pat Finucane. He was shot dead in front of his wife, Geraldine - she was also shot - and their children at their home in north Belfast on 12 February 1989.

I think the Taoiseach will agree with me when I say that Pat's family are to be commended on their courage, diligence and stamina in demanding a public inquiry into the killing. The trauma and stress they have experienced has been made all the greater because of the intransigence of the British Government to honour a freely made commitment at Weston Park to hold a public inquiry. In 2001, as the Taoiseach knows, the British Government agreed, along with the Irish Government, to invite Mr. Justice Peter Cory to determine the need for an inquiry. He concluded that there ought to be one, and yet the British Government has refused to implement the Weston Park Agreement.

What question are you on about?

We are on Questions Nos. 1 to 19, inclusive.

My apologies. This is a matter the Taoiseach has raised consistently in the United States of America. Did it form part of his discussions with President Obama on the occasion of his last visit some time ago?

What about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP? It is a comprehensive free trade and investment treaty being negotiated between the European Union and the USA. It is a very controversial proposition. Did the Taoiseach discuss this matter with the President? Did he raise with him the real threats it would represent to our democratic institutions, standards, public services, workers and agricultural sector?

The Deputy has raised quite a number of questions. As I said, I expressed a view that the potential diminution in J1 visas would be a serious blow to connections between Ireland and the United States and to the opportunity for so many young people to work legitimately in the US and avail of a wonderful experience. We have regular reports from the consulates in the US and the ambassador. Ambassador Anderson is a very dedicated official who is in constant contact with different political personnel on Capitol Hill.

I meet the US ambassador, Mr. O'Malley, on regular occasions at different events. This has to be done on the far side and requires the politics of the United States to deal with comprehensive immigration reform. There are 15 million people or more in the United State illegally. Some candidates said they will send them all away, but that cannot happen. Those people's lives would be far more beneficial to the US and its economy in the future if they were legitimised, had legal status and were able to contribute to their lives and the business of the United States.

In Congress, the current consensus on Capitol Hill appears to be that the next opportunity for a push on comprehensive legislative reform on immigration is not likely to arise until 2017, which is after the presidential election. The use of immigration as a negative and emotive issue in the Republican presidential nominee race only adds to that particular message being reinforced, which I regret. In the interim, the Irish embassy in Washington is pursuing a strategy for E3 visas for Ireland with the intention of taking advantages of any opportunity to move forward on immigration legislation that might present itself. I cannot say that it will.

As I said to Deputy Naughten, the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, was in Washington last week and met Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner. It was announced that a Bill had been tabled by him which could provide for the reallocation of thousands of E3 visas for Irish participants. However, it has to be said that it is only the first step in a long, difficult and complex process which will have to be navigated if the Bill is to become law.

I spoke to President Obama about this matter and obviously he has been limited in what he can do and has done what he can do. The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, met Vice President Biden on 30 March at the opening of the Edward Kennedy Institute. He emphasised Ireland's continuing concerns regarding immigration reform and, in particular, the importance of the travel issue for the undocumented Irish. We are all aware that people cannot come back for family events or tragedies, an issue which is of serious concern to us. The Minister also had, as I had, meetings with the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who reiterated on 2 July that this was a matter he had worked on for several years and that while it was difficult to secure progress, he would keep trying. He spoke at the American Chamber of the need to make progress on immigration reform, and I addressed it the following day and spoke on the same issue.

The Minister, Deputy Flanagan, met all the people I mentioned, namely, Paul Ryan, Richard Neal, Jim Sensenbrenner, Joseph Kennedy III and so on. A sizeable number of visas - 15,000 - are allocated to Australia under the E3 system. It is less favourable than a stand-alone provision for Ireland. The issue is being pursued but I am not sure how the connections between Australia and the US would view a situation like that.

At his meeting with the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, Congressman Sensenbrenner said it would be necessary to have a Bill of that sort passed by the Senate before one could be passed in the House of Representatives. He explained that many Republicans, including Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, would be concerned that such a Bill might be added to in the Senate by those wishing to broaden its focus to more than general immigration reform issues and that it was necessary to deal with those fears first if the Bill was to get anywhere. He indicated, however, that he was ready to table the Bill in the House of Representatives immediately, which he did the following day, while making it clear that action to move it forward would have to wait on progress in the Senate. One can see the complications. Congressman Sensenbrenner is a very experienced operator and is well regarded on the immigration issue in Republican circles. The sponsorship of the Bill is positive and a great deal of work now has to be undertaken. His Bill will remain on the books until the end of the legislative session when, if not acted upon, it will fall, which is a possibility.

The E3 visa has been available to Australian citizens since 2005. It allows for 10,500 Australians to travel to and work in the US for a year, up to two years or indefinitely as long as the individuals concerned have met the eligibility criteria and have valid job offers. Spouses and children of visa holders can also travel. On the basis of reciprocity, Australia offers a similar scheme to US citizens.

There is the whole question of visa waivers. On 24 February, on instruction from the Minister, Deputy Flanagan, a letter was issued from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to the US ambassador, Mr. O'Malley, on the wider issue of US immigration reform as well as on the question of waivers. This letter inquired whether it would be possible to create a predictable and positive pattern for waiver approval within existing US regulations. The Minister subsequently met the ambassador and discussed the issue with him on several occasions. I raised this myself during my visit to Washington on St. Patrick's Day.

The US embassy has indicated that the waiver system is applied in strict accordance with US laws and regulations and is operated uniformly worldwide, including here. An application for a waiver on the grounds of inadmissibility, as it is known, is an application for legal entry to the US made by an individual who is otherwise inadmissible on one or more grounds. Such a waiver can be applied for in the case of a three or ten-year ban having been imposed for overstaying a visa in the US in the first place. The US embassy has underlined that applications are assessed individually case by case, with final decisions on each being a matter for the US authorities in Washington and that, accordingly, an applicant would not be able to predict with any degree of certainty whether he or she would be successful. While this response is very disappointing, ultimately it is a matter for the US Government and embassy to interpret and implement their immigration laws.

I mentioned to President Obama the situation that applied in Northern Ireland. I did not actually discuss with him the A5, the Narrow Water bridge, the Ulster Canal or a number of other issues, but I did say to him that obviously we would continue to support, where that is possible, these pieces of infrastructure. We have had money in place for the A5 for quite a number of years, but it has not moved to a point where it has been drawn down because of legal problems and court cases. It is important to determine what is actually required and how much is involved. There has been £50 million available for a couple of years but it has not actually moved.

If I recall correctly, we discussed the implications of Stormont. I have always defended the Finucane family, and Geraldine Finucane in particular, in respect of backing a call for a public sworn inquiry in this case. I might just add, for the Deputy's information, that today the Government approved the retrieval of information facility which is part of the Stormont House Agreement. This, in theory at least, would lead to information relevant to an issue, incident or event in Northern Ireland being made available to a person looking for it. It remains to be seen whether it will actually apply in practice. The theory is that irrespective of where the blockage was in the past, an independent person would make the information sought available to the person seeking it, if it directly pertained to the person or his or her family. This will require heads of legislation coming through from Britain and here, and the intention is both Governments will sign this element of the Stormont House Agreement into effect on the same date. It will take some time for the two Parliaments to deal with it and it needs to be compatible, so if there is a request either way it will be made available in respect of Northern Ireland.

We did not discuss the question of the extent of migration, except to say the situation in the greater Middle East was extremely fragile and very sensitive. The literal flood of migrants across the Mediterranean and through Eastern European countries was not evident at that stage to the extent it became evident afterwards. The United States has made comments and taken some action on this. Clearly the current situation in so far as Syria is concerned, with Russia and the United States in there, is causing confusion and has led to a tragedy at a Médecins sans Frontières, MSF, hospital, with conflicting reports of how it came about.

On the question about block grants, we are precluded under the strands of the agreement from involving ourselves in this. We did go to Stormont prior to Christmas and eventually there was agreement on the agreement, including responsibility being accepted by the politicians in regard to welfare reform and the elements of money involved. Prime Minister Cameron responded to this in his own way. Obviously the situation drifted downwards afterwards and I am glad that at least there is now focus again by the political representatives on moving it forward, and I hope it does.

I met former President Clinton in New York when I was there for the United Nations. I had a very good meeting with him. Obviously he is well aware of Senator Hart being appointed as envoy to Northern Ireland. He has a passionate interest in Northern Ireland given his many years experience here. While not wishing to become centrally involved, he has said that in anyway he can assist or offer advice it is available as a general element of the process.

Earlier the Taoiseach used words such as unhelpful or uncomfortable to describe some of the language used by presidential candidates during the election campaign in terms of immigrants in the United States. Do we need to be a little bit more forthright in roundly condemning the language of one particular candidate, Mr. Donald Trump, who has been condemned by governments, civil rights organisations and human rights organisations for using what can only be described as utterly despicable and racist language? He accused Mexico of exporting its rapists and criminals to the United States. What is very relevant to the undocumented Irish is that he has called for the expulsion of all 11.3 million undocumented workers in the United States. This is the same Donald Trump whom the Minister, Deputy Michael Noonan, met in Shannon Airport in May 2014 with a red carpet, harps and people in traditional Irish dress in what was frankly even at the time quite a ludicrous show of deference to this multibillionaire. This same person now turns out to be somebody who is literally whipping up an outrageous and dangerous hysteria against the undocumented, who include the Irish undocumented. Do we regret rolling out the red carpet for a man who would say this about immigrants in the United States? Will we condemn what he is saying? He will hear those words given his investment in this country. It will be something he will hear if the Irish Taoiseach and political system condemn him utterly for the words he has used to describe undocumented immigrants in the United States from wherever they may come. I ask the Taoiseach to respond to this and make this forthright condemnation when somebody is being racist, and that is what he is. He is whipping up dangerous hysteria, whereby there are serious reports of immigrants actually suffering heightened levels of violence, threats and racist stereotyping specifically because of the language and rhetoric Donald Trump has used. It is emboldening the worst and most racist elements in the United States to attack, physically in some cases, target, vilify and demonise undocumented immigrants. This is mostly directed at Mexicans, but he has said he wants to expel all undocumented workers from the United States.

In the context of the refugee crisis, and particularly the situation in Syria and how it has been one of the major centres from which these refugees are fleeing, did the Taoiseach, as we asked him to on a number of occasions earlier this year, raise criticism, questions and concerns about the role of the United States in creating the conditions for this refugee crisis through its actions in Iraq, support for Saudi Arabia and arming of these regimes which have then gone on in turn to finance, support, give succour and create the conditions for the rise of ISIS? Somebody has to start saying this stuff because the consequences have been so devastating.

The Taoiseach mentioned his attendance at the UN meeting in New York. I have heard an unconfirmed report, and I would like a straight and direct answer. Did the Taoiseach meet, or have any engagement with, General al-Sisi, the president and dictator - there is no other word to use for this man - of Egypt?

Did the Taoiseach or any of his officials or representatives of the Irish State or political system meet President el-Sisi, the man who is engaging in mass executions and mass trials of his own citizens, as well as Ibrahim Halawa? If they did, was the Halawa case raised? His trial has been deferred yet again, and he has been incarcerated for two years in prison.

That is a separate issue from the question.

It relates to the Taoiseach's comment regarding his attendance at the meeting in New York. Did the Taoiseach meet President el-Sisi in New York or did other officials have any engagement with him? If they did, was the issue of Ibrahim Halawa raised?

I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett. I regard the comments made by the candidate, Mr. Trump, as absolutely outrageous.

I condemn them unreservedly in the context of immigrant people. We have 70 million people ourselves worldwide who claim Irish ancestry. Many of those were deported or left because of economic circumstances. Many left because of colonisation and the consequences of the Great Hunger. It is something very deep in the Irish. I commend again our naval personnel, who have taken from the waters of the Mediterranean more than 7,000 people, men, women and children.

In life and politics, sometimes one must meet people with whom one disagrees. Sometimes we meet people and there may be very wide differences of opinion. Kennedy met Khrushchev, Reagan met Gorbachev-----

Noonan met Trump.

Kenny met Gilmore.

The Pope met Castro.

Do not overstate it.

I will not.

Donald Trump is not in that league.

The fact that the Minister, Deputy Noonan, met a visitor to our country in Shannon does not preclude the Minister from having very strongly differing opinions about comments made by Mr. Trump in respect of immigrant people.

There were red carpets.

The matter of Syria has been discussed at some considerable length at European Council meetings, where the bigger countries in Europe have taken action in respect of the opposition in Syria to the Assad regime. We have discussed this before and everybody is of the view that the Assad regime should go. The latest intervention, involving the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and Mr. Lavrov from Russia, on how ISIS is to be dealt with in Syria is an obvious case in point. The hundreds of thousands of people displaced and living in camps in both Jordan and south Lebanon, trekking across into Turkey and from there to Europe, speak for themselves on this absolutely devastating issue. We spoke of the European position and the need for action to be taken to end this war. There is another issue in Libya, which has no government either, and there is open season in terms of people from the Horn of Africa moving through to Europe.

I met the Egyptian President for 30 or 40 minutes with the Minister of State, Deputy Sherlock, and officials. We spoke to him about Ibrahim Halawa and made very clear, without any equivocation, our desire for this young man to be able to return home to Ireland. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, has had detailed discussions on this in the past week. I also made it clear, however, that we cannot change the judicial court system in any other country, and I discussed very clearly with the President the question of eligibility, once the system had been gone through, for a presidential pardon for Ibrahim Halawa. I left the President in no doubt of our request that a presidential pardon should be considered and granted so this young man can come home. In speaking to the President, I was not aware at the time that the trial would again be postponed because of the illness of two of the people on trial. I can confirm to the Deputy that I, along with the Minister of State, Deputy Sherlock, and officials, met the Egyptian President formally, with minutes taken. We also discussed the quality of the developmental programmes that Ireland operates in sub-Saharan Africa, and he expressed an interest in learning more about those in view of the number of immigrant people and refugees taken into Egypt in the last period.

It would have been helpful if the Taoiseach had reported that meeting to the family.

I will send the Deputy a report of the meeting that is very clear.

That completes questions to the Taoiseach. We will move to the Order of Business.

The Taoiseach is getting good at the filibustering.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.