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City Club With His Excellency Daniel Mulhall;

On Friday, January 26th, we went to the City Club to hear His Excellency Daniel Mulhall, Ireland's 18th Ambassador to the United States. As he walked over to the dining area, we shook hands with him and gave him a copy of Ms. Margaret W. Wong's book, "The Immigrant's Way" explaining that it was an excellent overview of the history of immigration to the United States as well as how current immigration issues should be addressed. We were quite pleased as the ambassador graciously accepted our book and expressed genuine interest in its contents.  

Before the program started, we got to visit with a lot of our friends from both the East Side and West Side Irish American Clubs. We encountered Ms. Colleen Day who was there with students from "Holy Name High School" who she had chaperoned on a trip to Ireland the previous year. She introduced us to her charges as a person who works for an excellent immigration attorney named Ms. Margaret W. Wong. We also talked to Ms. Regina Costello who worked for Ms. Wong from about 1997 to 2001 performing such tasks as research and the preparation of newsletters and said to be sure to say "hello" to Ms. Wong on her behalf.

As he begin his talk, Ambassador Mulhall recalled the wave of Irish immigration to the United States from 1830 to 1900 which he believed contributed greatly to the transformation of the United States into the great country that is today. 

Nevertheless, he stated that these immigrants from Ireland also brought with them a sense of deprivation because they came here to escape the famine and terrible economic conditions in their native land. Thus, they resolved never to forget their Irish identity and to pass it along to their children and established a unique and mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and Ireland which really came to the forefront in the 1960's when international companies including many based in the United States chose to invest in Ireland; today there are some 700 U.S. companies who have offices in Ireland and likewise there are hundreds of Irish companies that have offices in the United States which employ 1000's of U.S. citizens.

Another factor in Ireland's recent prosperity is its membership in the European Union and Ambassador Mulhall devoted a large portion of his address to discussing the unease that Brexit has caused. Although he made it clear that he did not favor the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, he was still cautiously optimistic about the future because the United Kingdom has resolved to keep its borders open with Ireland so that trade and people can move easily back and forth. It might also help Ireland's standing to be the only English-speaking country now in the European Union.

During the Q and A, Ms. Courtney Ottrix from "Global Cleveland" asked him a question regarding immigration to which he replied in a gentlemanly fashion that it was not his place to talk about U.S. policies but Irish policies are quite welcoming of the foreign-born particularly because Ireland had learned from the U.S./Irish experience how much it pays to be accepting; when the Irish came to the United States in the 1800's they were initially detested but they persevered and became a vital part of the U.S. fabric.

Ambassador Mulhall acknowledged that for many years not too many people wanted to immigrate to Ireland although quite a few people wanted to emigrate out of Ireland. But this is changing because back in the 1990's only 2% of the people living in Ireland were foreign-born but now that number has risen to 17% which is even higher than it is in Great Britain. What's more, he was proud to say that there never has been too much of an anti-immigrant backlash in his country even when unemployment was high.

He said that now immigrants come from all over and generally spread themselves out and not live in enclaves and that he really enjoys watching the children (many of them born in Ireland) of foreign-born families being interviewed because they may have names associated with Polish, Latvian and/or African cultures but they speak with Irish accents!

While we were at the City Club, we got to speak with Mr. Danny O'Connell, National Vice President of the "Ancient Order of the Hibernians" who shared with us his view although a stable economy in Ireland has countered the need to immigrate elsewhere; young people are always ready to attempt it no matter what the state of the economy is and there are perhaps 50,000 people from Ireland now living in the U.S. who have overstayed their visas.

We learned that in 1965 the numerical "quota" of those allowed to immigrate was 17,500 but now a lottery system is in place which selects very few people each year. Mr. O'Connell told us that he would personally like to see 10,500 E3 visas granted yearly just like Australia. 

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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