Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny has vowed to press President Donald Trump about the future of thousands of illegal Irish immigrants living in the US.
He said that undocumented Irish immigrants wanted to remain and contribute in the US.
He was speaking in Philadelphia at the beginning of the taoiseach’s annual St Patrick’s Day trip.
Mr Kenny said their “plight” would be an “absolute priority” this week.
With global focus on President Trump’s immigration policies, Mr Kenny’s efforts to lobby the president will draw much interest in the coming week.He told an Irish-American dinner event that he wanted to “renew the strong case on behalf of the hard-working, tax-paying Irish people in the United States who for too long now have been living in the shadows, and want nothing more than to continue making their contribution to this great country”.
“We all understand that immigration reform is a politically sensitive issue,” he added.
“However, I truly believe that a US immigration system that addresses the needs of the undocumented Irish, and provides for future legal flows, will be of huge benefit to America.”
Mr Kenny also told the event that the Republic of Ireland was well-placed to absorb the risks posed by Brexit and that the economy had emerged from previous crises with “renewed strength and confidence”.
The taoiseach has further engagements in Philadelphia on Sunday, including the city’s annual St Patrick’s parade.
He will visit Boston and Rhode Island before travelling to Washington for scheduled political meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.
His visit will conclude in New York on Friday.
Earlier this year, there had been calls in the Irish parliament for Mr Kenny to boycott the annual visit to the White House in the wake of President Trump’s initial travel ban.