January 19, 2007 / 2:00 AM / 12 years ago

Ireland considering immigration deal with U.S

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Thousands of Irish citizens living unlawfully in the United States could be legalized in return for more work permits for U.S. citizens lured to Ireland by its thriving economy, an Irish minister said on Wednesday.

“There is clear evidence to support the establishment of some form of bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Irish governments,” Labour Minister Tony Killeen said in a statement after he returned from a trip to New York.

Killeen said that, while 30,000 to 40,000 illegal Irish immigrants were living in the United States, two centuries of mass emigration to the United States from Ireland because of famine and unemployment was clearly now at an end.

Ireland’s Trade and Employment Ministry said more than 4,300 Americans immigrated to Ireland in search of employment in 2005, compared with 1,700 Irish people moving to the United States, where more than 10 percent of the population claims Irish descent.

Killeen said a jobs fair in New York showed how appealing Ireland had become in the wake of the “Celtic Tiger” boom.

“The interest expressed by Americans to come and work in Ireland was so great that a queue more than two-and-a-half blocks long formed outside the exhibition venue,” he said.

“In less than 15 years, Ireland has gone from being the sick man of Europe to one of the most dynamic economies in the developed world.”

Killeen told Reuters in New York last week that Ireland would also try to lure Irish and U.S. citizens back to Ireland where the population is now back above 4 million, having slumped to a 120-year low of 2.8 million in the 1960s.

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