Belfast Telegraph

US election: Gaelic student summer travel scheme is now in jeopardy

By Declan Bogue

The flood of students travelling over to America to play Gaelic football and hurling and take up casual work could be at an end.

As the fallout from the US presidential election continues, the GAA could be impacted.

Back in August 2015, Trump made an election promise that the J1 Visa programme - and presumably the ESTA programme for students in Northern Ireland - would be "terminated and replaced with a resume bank for inner city youth provided to all corporate subscribers."

It would spell an end to the hordes of young Gaelic footballers and hurlers who take up residence in America for the summer, while their club programme at home grinds to the traditional inexplicable mid-summer halt.

Tyrone under-21 manager Feargal Logan appreciates the huge benefits from the arrangement, having travelled to America and played football over a couple of summers in New York.

"A couple of years ago I was out in San Francisco and (Armagh man) Joe Duffy was organising for the Ulster club over there. I spent a day with Joe and he was getting apartments carpeted and men lifted at the airport," he said.

"To be able to fly to a far-off city and be treated like that is a lot better than doing what we did in our time. When I first landed in America you just landed in New York and made your own way to Port Authority and tried to move on.

"To have that support system available to you and have the football and hurling, is a major benefit."

Mr Logan said the opportunity to visit America for a few summer months on the back of your talent was a precious one.

"The GAA is growing internationally, but it doesn't offer a lot internationally. For the players, it is a chance to broaden their horizons," he continued.

"The issue at the root of it all though, is the GAA calendar. Fifty two weeks is a fair block of time and you could play a lot of football and hurling."

The Republic, meanwhile, was told it must "practice what we preach" if it wants Trump to help the 50,000 undocumented Irish migrants in the USA, the Dail has been told.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said there are up to 26,000 undocumented migrants in Ireland - up to 6,000 of these are children "living in the shadows". Mr Howlin noted the priority given by the Taoiseach to lobbying for Irish immigrants in the USA in his first response to Mr Trump's election.

But he warned Mr Trump's policy was diametrically opposed to the Irish Government's aims. "He has promised to deport illegal immigrants in the first 100 days - and the clock is ticking," he said.

Replying for the Government, Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald, said the Government remains determined to help find a remedy for undocumented Irish immigrants in the US and the Taoiseach mentioned this to Mr Trump.

Ms Fitzgerald added that she was working with the Migrant Council of Ireland and hoped people could regularise their position.

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