Group to meet in Castlebar on undocumented Irish in America

A newly formed group campaigning on behalf of the undocumented Irish in America is to meet in Castlebar on Monday.

The group, called Families of the Undocumented Irish in America, was founded by Bundoran man Michael McMahon and it is calling on families here affected by the issue to join their cause.

Mr McMahon has first-hand experience of the plight of the undocumented Irish and the toll their particular form of exile takes on their families at home.

He has a son in the US who has been unable to visit Ireland for more than 17 years.

Mr McMahon says he is coming to Mayo in a bid to garner cross political support for his campaign as well as the support of families with loved ones in a similar situation.

"This is not about politics, it is about real people"

"We are trying to cover the length and breadth of Ireland with this campaign because we believe successive governments have failed us on this, and failed us miserably," said Mr McMahon.

"This is not about politics, it is about real people who left Ireland, many of them in the 1980s, through no fault of their own and who are now in a really serious situation."

Mr McMahon pointed to what he says is an already existing visa waiver system, which other governments are using, and which could provide some relief to the tens of thousands of undocumented Irish in America.

Currently, the undocumented face a ban on reentry to the US, lasting up to 10 years, if they leave.

However, Mr McMahon said this ban on reentry could be waived to allow Irish people to visit home or to start the process of regularizing their status in the US.

"Mexico received 58,000 waivers in 2011 alone, according to the New York Times," he stated. "That is because the Mexican Government pursued these waivers for its citizens. The Irish Government should do the same."

Mr McMahon said he will issue a call from Castlebar to An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, to get a visa waiver system working for eligible Irish citizens in America.

He wants other families with undocumented loved ones in America to come along to the meeting to support this call and tell their own stories.

The meeting takes place at 11am in the Royal Theatre Hotel, Castlebar.

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