The minister for the diaspora is surprised the estimated number of illegal immigrants living in the US has now been reduced to just 10,000.
It comes after Government envoy to the US Congress John Deasy, revised down the number of undocumented Irish in America.
Minister of state for the diaspora Ciaran Cannon said he was surprised by the figuret but committed to still fight to gain proper status for the undocumented.
“The figure that has been suggested by both our own organisation, our own embassy staff over there, was somewhere in the order of 40,000,” he said. “But John Deasy has been over there in his role as envoy over the last four or five days, trying to determine exactly what is the figure.
“John seems to be suggesting it’s somewhere closer to 10,000. I think the critical thing at this point is, I suppose, to be able to determine with some degree of accuracy what exactly that figure is.
“And then, once that is determined, how we go about moving towards ensuring that the people who are over there, many of whom for a very long time, including some close relatives of mine, making a life for themselves there, making a significant contribution to the American economy, have some opportunity to gain proper status over a period of time.”
Mr Cannon added that it would be a “very difficult challenge” but he would be working hard to secure rights for those Irish living illegally in the US.
He also hinted that Irish voting rights in presidential elections would only be extended to those with a right to an Irish passport.
Government is currently looking at ways of expanding the president vote to those living outside Ireland — similar to systems in France and America.
Mr Cannon said: “It remains a priority for the Government to extend the Presidential vote to all of our diaspora world wide. A very extensive and forensic analysis of all the options that are available to us has been produced.”
However, he said that they would first have to set out the the options available and the mechanics of allowing the diaspora to vote.
“We’re no working on determining exactly who we should extend it to, then having decided that, how we actually physically make it happen,” he said.
“The options are, you could extend it to every person who claims Irish heritage, which I think would be exceptionally difficult — right down to the most straightforward one, which is it should be extended to every person who either has an Irish passport or has an entitlement to an Irish passport.
“My own preference would be something in that particular vein, where we could very easily determine who exactly should and shouldn’t be entitled to vote in a future presidential election. If we begin to create a situation where that definition becomes nebulous, becomes not very easily defined, I think you’re into very dangerous territory and perhaps the opportunity to scupper the whole concept. I think we should be looking at something that is easily definable, and easily administered.”
While he seemed to point to having overseas polling stations in embassies, he said he would not be ruling out postal or internet voting options for those living abroad.
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