That powerful rhetoric underpins the old and cherished tradition of Céad Míle Fáilte which still abides to this day — unless you happen to be an undocumented migrant.
In such a case, the famous “welcome” is 100,000 short.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), which hosts a conference on the issue today, estimates that there are up to 26,000 undocumented people living in Ireland, among them up to 6,000 children who know no other home. Two thirds of migrants are between the ages of 25 and 39, which means that, in normal circumstances, they would be eligible to work and make an economic contribution to Irish society.
Considering the efforts made by senior politicians here to secure rights for undocumented Irish living in the US, it is nothing short of hypocrisy that the same rights are not acknowledged for migrants living in Ireland.
According to the MRCI, the vast majority of them have been living here for five years, with more than one fifth here for 10 years or more. For them, life is a constant and fearful struggle. Like many Irish people in the US, they experience the daily terror of being caught and the pain of being unable to visit their families.
All these undocumented migrants are seeking is a regularised status similar to that sought by the Government for Irish people in the US. This would give undocumented people the chance to legalise their immigration status and work legally in Ireland.
Doing so would not just be a humane and compassionate response to a growing crisis among migrants, it would also make economic sense. Research carried out by the MRCI reveals that failure to regulate migrants is costing the State €41m per year in lost direct tax.
In other words, regularising undocumented migrants is a no-brainer on any level. So why has it not been done?
The answer must be that there is no political will to do so, insufficient pressure on influential politicians to do not just the decent thing but the right thing socially, politically, and econmically.
Up to now, many migrant rights organisations have stressed the humanitarian argument with limited success. Sadly, compassion and human empathy will only get you so far. However, a more nuanced approach by the MRCI may gain greater traction by emphasising the economic arguments for regularising the status of undocumented migrants.
The MCRI has set out a sane, reasonable, and responsible path to regularisation for those who fulfil certain criteria but decisive action is needed to put it on a legislative footing.
If the members of the new government cannot be enticed by humane considerations to do something about this perhaps they can be persuaded by powerful business groups who support regularisation for economic reasons.
Deaf ears can all too easily be turned to pleadings but when money talks politicians are forced to listen.