US president Barack Obama has written to newly appointed senator Billy Lawless, to congratulate him.
Mr Lawless, a Chicago-based immigration advocate was one of 11 nominees appointed to the Seanad by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, despite being based in Chicago.
However, speaking in the Seanad yesterday on the order of business on the anniversary of the Berkeley tragedy, Mr Lawless read the letter from Mr Obama into the record of the House: “Dear Billy, please accept my congratulations on your appointment to the Seanad. As I’ve noted before, your story is a powerful one, and it reflects the enduring ties of friendship between the peoples of the United States and Ireland.
“In beginning this new chapter, I trust you’ll reflect on all that has led you to this point with tremendous pride. Again, congratulations. You, Anne and Billy have my warm regards, Sincerely, Barack Obama,” the president wrote.
Mr Lawless, who was on crutches, said he didn’t reveal the letter for personal promotion but to reflect the strong ties between Ireland and the US, in the context of the outpouring of support to those affected by the Berkeley tragedy last year.
Mr Lawless is a prominent businessman in Chicago and his work as an immigration advocate has brought him to attention in political and media circles in Chicago and in Washington DC.
He is chairman of Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform and is also a board member and co-founder of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition and fights for immigration reform. Mr Lawless introduced Mr Obama at a major rally in Chicago following the president’s announcement of major immigration reforms.
Also speaking on the order of business in his maiden address, Fianna Fáil senator Gerry Horkan, remembered the six victims of the balcony tragedy. Mr Horkan mentioned the victims by name and said it was appropriate to send the support of the Seanad to their families and the others who were injured.
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