Conor's Bandon Blog

Local stuff and other stuff from a blow-in

Irish Immigration Control is a Disgrace

Today I am embarassed to be Irish. I wish to extend my apologies and those of all reasonable people in this country to Keola Donaghy and his family.

Keola, who is from Hawaii, arrived earlier today in Dublin with his family to begin his doctoral studies in UCC. He had been assured by the Gardaí in Cork and by UCC that there was no issue with him coming. He has spent months preparing for this move.

At immigration today in the Airport he was told that he could enter but his family could not. Students cannot come with dependents! Keloa declined to break up his family and they will all soon be on a plane back to New York. Many attempts have been made by people today to keep them in the country but to no avail.

I am disgusted by this. Keola has been communicating with many of us in the Irish blogosphere and twittersphere over the past few months. We were all looking forward to meeting him and welcoming him to Ireland. Instead a bunch of people who are answerable to almost no-one decided he didn’t fit some nonsense arbitrary criteria.

Ignoring the general issue of immigration control, the fact that we block ANY American coming here is a farce. We would still be scrabbling for rotting potatoes in muck if it wasn’t for the kindness of the USA and its citizens over the past 160 years. We should shake the hand of every Yank who comes through immigration control in Dublin or Shannon and thank them for letting us go to the US in our thousands.

I don’t know what we can do about this considering that immigration is effectively run by a cabal of bureaucrats whose powers far exceed any that should be acceptable in a democracy. Whoever is responsible for the sort of bullshit terms and conditions which led to Keola heading home needs to change them now! Or was that person thrown out in the last election?

If you know of anything that can be done to remove this stain on our character, please do so.

In addition, whoever in UCC or the Gardaí is responsible for this horrendous error should be removed from that role immediately.

Once again Keola, my apologies for this, those involved should all be ashamed of themselves.


  1. Pingback: AlexiaBlogs » Blog Archive » Immigration Woes Mean Keola & Family Must Return to USA

  2. Embarrassing yes, but have you seen the hoops they make you jump through to get into the States and the amount of Irish Americans afraid to return here in case they can’t get back in? Just because he’s an American shouldn’t exempt him from whatever regulations that are in place. FWIW, fully-visaed Irish students in the US can’t automatically bring in dependents, and when they can, there’s other issues over whether they can work while they’re there.

  3. Yes, hundreds of thousands of Paddys have jumped through a few hoops. The only ones worried are not Irish Americans, they are illegal Irish.

    It would probably have been quite easy for Keola to enter illegally by telling a few lies. He chose honesty.

    There are two points here:

    [1] The regulations should be changed. I would happily see all visa restrictions on all US citizens removed. It’s the least we can do.

    [2] Whoever gave the incorrect information to Keola should not be in a position to do that again. If the route to return is via a full-time job offer then the least UCC can do is make this happen. Today.

  4. Conor – mahalo for discusing our plight.

    John – we thought we did everything required of us to gain entry, including the issue of my bringing dependents. We’ve been planning for months. You can read the story of our saga at:

    We’re in NYC hoping for a miracle.

  5. Pingback:   New York, Day 1 — Culture Hack

  6. I am making a Freedom of Information request on the three Donaghy cases because I would like to see the details–if any–given by the immigration official that justifies why he felt he was being deceived by the Americans who were entering the country legally.

    In most countries, immigration control is at a place outside the country which means you cannot avail of aid from within the country. Even an elected government official has no reach to affect movement out of that special place where you’re refused leave to land. Unfortunately, the only comeback is weeks, months or years later. Speaking from experience, the easiest thing is to simply land again at a different port and if you’re interested in this avenue of return, you need to read the fifteenth word in this sentence and abide by the advice.

  7. As always, Bernie, your counsel is most appreciated. At this point in time I probably not risk exposing my wife and daughter to being refused entry again. My daughter (16) in particular was traumatized, even though immigration officials were courteous enough. Unless someone can provide a document that guaranteed our entry I wouldn’t want to risk it.

    A friend of mine in Hawai‘i got through to someone at the Irish consulate in NY who seemed to think that this could be worked out on Monday. Will see how that plays out before making plans in one direction or the other. If I was alone I would definitely attempt re-entry.

  8. I get an enquiry like this about once a month and can confirm that the outcome was entirely predictable.

    Its not the fault of the official and to his/her credit, the rules were applied as they would be for someone arriving from any one of the many countries sending students to Ireland.

    I suspect that €500 for a high school/primary doesn´t sound like the kind of fees charged by a private school, €2000+ might be closer. You should have paid in advance of arrival for all courses which must be a minimum of 1 year and had an invitation/acceptance letter from each institution.

    As far as I know, immigration does not refuse entry if all conditions are met, even if you were refused before.

  9. I really don´t see why there is so much criticism of immigration in this case, they did nothing wrong and nothing they don´t do every day with people from other countries.

    It is unfortunate that they were given bad advice but lets give them the benefit of the doubt and consider that maybe they (the University and other people asked to advise)didn´t understand that the childs’ school was not a private fee paying school (and Keola knew this was a requirement) and did not have a letter of acceptance for her.

    We don´t have a special condition for USA for the same reason they don´t have for us

  10. Aloha Mike, I truly appreciate your candor. I realize that my own ignorance played a major part in this debacle. I personally hold no animosity toward the immigration officer that we faced. My sole interest at this time is to find away to make it to Ireland as quickly as possible and satisfy the existing rules. I have documented my feelings regarding our problems on my blog, including what I think is a way to resolve this fairly quickly. We cannot stay in NY indefinitely, my daughter would miss too much school. Here is the blog:

    I would truly grateful for your thoughts and any insight you could offer.

  11. There is little criticism in any of the posts I have read on this topic of the actual immigration officials. The only area of dispute in my mind is the actual clause they used to block him – that basically they did not believe him.

    In my case, the anger is directed at [a] tge people who clearly did not do their job correctly in advising Keola – they are thundering disgraces to use a famous phrase from the 19070s and [b] those responsible for nonsense laws who are blocking the arrival of intelligent educated people who have much to offer our country.

    Do I want 419 scammers coming in on some dodgy language school visas? Of course not, but give me every smart Yank we can get our hands on.

  12. Hi Keola, I know you didn´t say anything about the immigration people and I understand the reaction of your friends.

    Immigration did nothing wrong. The arrangement you made with the school for your daughter is not appropriate and might lead to some internal correspondence

    If you want to rectify this you need to find out from a reliable source if your wife needs to be enrolled on a full-time course (i doubt it) and if your daughter must attend a private school.

    Immigration will want to see an acceptance letter from each school required and will ask if the full fees have been paid. They often then ring the institution concerned to check.

    I´m not sure if mei-relsa are the right people to ask, but they should have the information you need.

    To avoid the problem would have been easy and resolving may still be.

  13. Pingback: Digiculture » Blog Archive » Wake Up, Ireland - Keola Doesn’t Need Us

  14. Mahalo Mike. I’m hoping that our first attempt to gain entry doesn’t make it even more difficult to get in. I’m considering flying over alone tomorrow or Tuesday to try to make arrangements on the school personally.

    In my dealings with UCC ISO, my wife never seemed to be a concern as long as I could show that we had sufficient funds to support her and did not expect her to work.

    I’ve asked UCC ISO to contact immigration at Cork to clarify, to see if there will be any additional obstacles because of our prior refusal, and for any other advice. I’m praying that I can resolve this in person quickly and amicably and not have to abandon my dream of pursuing a Ph.d. at UCC.

  15. Pingback:   New York, Day 2 — Culture Hack

  16. I think readers need to know that immigration has done some things that do not appear directly in this commentary.

    First, immigration did not believe Keola Donaghy’s explanation as to his reason to land in Ireland. Accordingly, they coded their refusal to grant him leave to land with the standard terminology “there is reason to believe that the non-national intends to enter the State for purposes other than those expressed by the non-national.”

    Second, the immigration officer’s supervisor did not contravene this decision and from personal experience, I doubt the supervisor even reviewed documents relating to the case.

    Third, unlike more civil parts of Irish society, you cannot present your documents at the local Garda Station for review. In the case of Irish immigration, you have not arrived in the country until you have cleared Passport Control. Outside of being taken into police custody for a trip downtown, there is no way of getting a separate impartial review of your case at the time of your entry. If your initial encounter at the passport desk goes wobbly, you’re done. Even though Keola Donaghy would have changed his daughter’s Transition Year school when getting to Cork in order to satisfy the GNIB’s concern, he was not trusted to accomplish that task. Moreover, Keola’s daughter could have sat out a year to develop her art portfolio or she could have been home-schooled and in either of those cases the GNIB’s point about education for dependents is moot.

    Fourth, all the Donaghy passports are now marked with an initialed cross which indicates to other border checkpoints that the bearer attempted unsuccessfully to land in a sovereign nation. Speaking from personal experience, this will continue to raise issues for the life of the passport.

    Fifth, as an airline pilot with cargo less precious than paying passengers, I was able to get a Permit to Proceed to another checkpoint in the case of cargo that was incorrectly manifested or when documentation was out of order. I got those Permits to Proceed with pallets of blood, spent weapons casings, unvouched chemical containers, spoiled produce, and sick cattle aboard. No such variance was offered to the Donaghy family, although similar cases of professionals accompanied by dependents on year-long visits have landed at Irish Airports of Entry. Why can’t close calls at immigration be shunted out of the airport and required to present themselves at the local Garda station for clarification and endorsement?

    Sixth, most people caught in the Passport Holding Tank discover that the women’s toilets are a mess. This is a minor point but one I’m mentioning because when my Irish fiancee accompanied me at my point of non-entry, the Irish garda told her the ladies’ loo was not for Irish since it was in such a filthy state. I didn’t sit down to use the men’s but could smell what she was talking about.

    I have attitude about this event because it represents an over-reaching of the GNIB’s mission in the handling of a well-meaning mid-career professional. While it’s possible to hide behind the badge, the letter of the regulation or the spirit of the system, the overall effect is a gross misappropriation of my tax-funded assets at the Dublin Airport and I do not believe it is the kind of treatment that modern Ireland should institutionalise as the proper order.

  17. Well said Bernie!

    The attitude of “well that’s just the way things are” doesn’t cut it. It’s the mentality of classic Irish bureaucracy and it’s time Irish taxpayers stopped putting up with it.

    Bit by bit we are managing to eradicate the old Ireland of “shur we’re shite but we’re grand”. It’ll probably be another century before the public sector and political classes come on board. The public sector which thinks we have two children called Sibéal, which sends us two appointments for x-rays on different days and spells Fionn’s name wrong on both, which can’t keep people informed of water cut-offs, which can’t tell the difference between a highly regarded American academic and a welfare migrant and generally isn’t arsed because they’ll still have their jobs in the morning, come what may.

  18. I’m sure your Irish readers know there is a financial cost incurred by taxpayers every time a tourist is refused leave to land. Ireland must pay for same-day tickets to return the visitor to their point of origin. The GNIB purchased three short-notice tickets for a flight from Dublin to NYC. That is a transaction valued at more than EUR 2200 for Aer Lingus. The immigration officer and his supervisor made this decision to spend money earned through my taxes without any upchannel concerns. The Donaghy family could have insisted upon being returned further west, all the way to Los Angeles, if they preferred. I appreciate Keola offering the State the less expensive option.

    Through all this mess, I think it’s very amusing to note this incident involved a family from Hawaii. You have to be very out of touch to assume an American family, rooted in Hawaii, want to become a burden upon the Republic of Ireland with all her rain, her expensive cost of living, and her third world infrastructure.

    Travel sections of the local papers should profile Hawaii as a point of landing. The immigration controls in the 50th State are gracious and the airport receptions relaxing. I’ve seen this first-hand on Oahu and when disembarking on Maui with hordes of Japanese ambling across the tarmac. We could learn from that other island. I believe all those assigned to work in the Garda National Immigration Bureau should be required to fly into Honolulu to personally observe this best practise. Make it a field trip for new officers assigned to protect the Irish borders. We would all learn some cross-cultural lessons.

  19. I don´t understand why the state and authorities are subject to such criticism (not by Keola) on this and other blogs/boards. This is not personal, the immigration authorities have clear rules and to ignore them is not in anyones interests.

    He was badly advised before his arrival. We don´t know under what circumstances he arranged the school for his daughter but we do know that those arrangements were not acceptable, whoever made those arrangements possibly did know the rules they seemed to know quite a lot.

    I´m not accusing Keola of any wrongdoing but in defense of the immigration officials, everyday they are faced with people trying to enter in circumstances not permitted by the state. It should not matter from where the person is coming from even though we all recognise the links we have with USA. I enjoy the treatment I receive when arriving at JFK and feel sure Americans are generally treated well arriving at Dublin airport.

  20. Mike, the point being made by Bernie, Conn and others is that the rules are anything but clear.

    The key issue in this case is that the reason given for refusal was not “he hasn’t followed the rules” but “there is reason to believe that the non-national intends to enter the State for purposes other than those expressed by the non-national”.

    The Immigration official made a judgement call which was [a] incorrect and [b] gave no comeback to either Keola or anyone else to correct.

  21. Aloha all. Conn documented a detail that I had left out of my previous posts regarding the school situation. It is found here:

    It is found in the paragraph that begins “The person I spoke to had had a busy day.”

    Perhaps I would have had an easier time going through Cork and dealing with or having greater access to the people with whom UCC staff had consulted. Perhaps they would have given us the benefit of the doubt and opportunity to rectify our mistake, if it indeed was one.

    I did ask the immigration officer at Dublin if he could call the immigration folks in Cork as they would be familiar with our situation, and his reply was that they (the GNIS officers in Dublin) were immigration there. He ended the conversation there and I was convinced his mind was made up and there was nothing I could say or do to change it.

    We traveled through Dublin once before, sailed through immigration, and were treated grandly everywhere we went. The Dublin experienced has soured none of us on Ireland or the Irish people. When we returned to NYC and regained our wits we were unanimous in our desire to find a way to straighten things out and continue on to Cork. We’re working on that right now with folks in Cork.

  22. I would hate this to become an argument but….from the moment that Keola said that he was intending to study full-time and that his daughter would be staying more than 3 months then the immigration officials were acting under the law as, at least I understand them to be.

    He could have entered, he has already said his wife could enter, but his daughter had not been registered in a fee paying school.

    It is bad that he was not given good advice and had not enrolled and paid in advance for his daughter´s school.

    How unfair it is won´t change anything. Keola can find a fee paying school for his daughter, pay, get an acceptance letter and then see if this is enough..if it isn´t, the school will refund the money.

    Just in case he needs to also check what he needs to do if his wife will seek employment.

  23. I don’t envy the job of an immigration officer but I do question the latitude given to those officers in the execution of their duties. Several high-level inquiries, at least one at ministerial level, were made while the Donaghy family was detained in Dublin airport. All were rebuffed because they could be. This effectively meant the GNIB assumed the executive powers of the Department of Education and the Department of Arts since both of those departments had direct interests in having the Donaghy family enter Ireland.

    In NYC, immigration controls are costing the city tourism revenue. It does not make sense for high-cost Ireland to follow the same stringent New York standard in cases where the only clear interest served appears to be the letter of the regulation that permits the GNIB to refuse leave to land.

    Anecdotally, I have seen performance reports highlight the number of refusals an alert GNIB officer has made in a month behind the desk. If Partnership bonus payments are being linked to the number of people refused leave to land, the whole system is warped. But as I have said, my information is anecdotal only and not to be misconstrued as an indictment of the current system. The status quo has other, more glaring weaknesses, specifically in the gray areas surrounding the pre-approval of post-graduates entering the country on directed study arrangements.

  24. What a horrible ordeal!

    When we moved here, my husband who is American told them up front that we were moving here. Instead of the normal three month stamp, he was given a one month stamp and told to apply with our local Gardai for an extension within the month. No other questions asked. Yes, it’s easier because he is married to an Irish citizen, but my brother’s girlfriend, also American, had the same acceptance, only she was given the standard three months and told to contact the Gardai to figure out the rest. They are not married or even engaged.

    Why the different treatment here??? People are talking about immigration standard, but based on my experience versus Keola’s there doesn’t appear to be a standard, or at least a consistent one!

  25. Guys, we know what happened and so does Keola. He knew his daughter needed a fee paying school so he found a fudge solution.

    Why am I taking this attitude? because from reading about this on other blogs you think he deserves special treatment, shame on you all.

  26. No, most people are saying that non-welfare immigrants deserve intelligent treatment. If that rates as “special” in your book then so be it.

  27. All immigrants deserve intelligent treatment.

    If we are not going to store up trouble for ourselves in the future then we need clear guidelines, clearly applied.

    For a case this simple it should have been possible to provide Keola with a black and white, no fudge needed checklist.
    And it should all have been sorted before they ever left Hawaii.

    The officer in Dublin should have only had to check a completed checklist.

    The benefits to this country of this family coming here are clear.
    The apparent disadvantages are not clear to me.

  28. Aloha all. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I am deeply grateful to all for the thoughtful posts, comments and those offline who are working on our behalf.

    Mike, what I was told by UCC and others that when we arrived we would only be given a only 3 month stamp, and that upon arrival in Cork we would proceed to the gardai station and that they would then change mine to a student visa, and extend my wife and daughter’s so that they could remain for the duration. When I asked the officer if he could simply allow us a 3 month stamp for my wife and daughter it was for that reason, so that we could come into the country to work things out in Cork with folks and get the extension necessary for our family to stay the entire time.

    Perhaps this is a tactic used by the folks I’ve heard referred to as “welfare tourists” and arouses suspicion. I’m not sure.

    I’ve had many offers of help from people with some political connections online, which may or may not bear fruit. My feeling is that the answer lies in Cork with the ISO and gardai there, and am praying for a happy ending.

    Mahalo nui to you all.

  29. Aloha Mike. I honestly did not think it was a fudge solution. I ran it by UCC, thought they ran it by immigration in Cork, and am still not certain that they did not. The finanancial aspect did not have anything to do with it. We were perfecly willing, and still are if they will allow us, to move Denyce to a school that immigration finds acceptable if they would simply allow me to return to Cork alone to work that detail out and bring my family over when I have.

    The main reason for our wanting to put Denyce in St. Aloysius’ were the wonderful letters of encouragement that they sent. They seemed to sincerely want our daughter in their transition year program to bring her unique perspective of being a Hawaiian student into their room. Since our ordeal the principal there has emailed us frequently to offer words of encouragement and support, and we have been deeply touched by her efforts. While we would be very disappointed if we had to put her in a different school I’m sure that Denyce would be very happy wherever we were required to enroll her, and so would we no matter what the cost.

    Mahalo again.

  30. you were very badly advised and you made a mistake. if you all had entered as tourists nobody would have batted an eyelid but then you go to immigration and openly tell them that you intend to flout immigration procedures, what could they do? too late to turn a blind eye.

  31. Of course Mike, how dare Keola tell the truth and assume the advice he had been given was correct. How dare he.

    In the interests of full disclosure Mike, are you in Brazil or are you running through a Brazilian anonymizer to mask your IP?

  32. Aloha Mike. I still appreciate your candor, but really don’t feel up to continued forensic examination of what happened at Dublin. We’re trying to remain positive and find a solution that will allow us to return and make sure that we are in full compliance. Things are happening at a few levels in Cork and Dublin that may help. While my optimism is diminishing hourly there are two many people that have and continue to make Herculean efforts on our behalf. To turn back now, to me, would be to let them down. We’re hanging in there and hoping that their efforts bear fruit. If now, we will return to Hawai’i with ill will toward no one, including the immigration officer we encountered. Our affection for Ireland remains undiminished, and I would not even go so far as to rule out a future trips as visitors.

    Mahalo again.

  33. Keola, you should be grateful to the customs not allowing you to live in this shithole, consider yourself SO lucky!

  34. Man, what a disappointing chapter in this story. I listened to a couple of Bernie’s podcast where Keola first called into find out about how best to enter Ireland with his family and then a follow up with positive answers to his questions. To now find out that he arrived in Ireland and was bounced back out again, with a notation that could prejudice him and his family again in the future, is a big disappointment. It must have been awful to pack up everything, make the trip, all the excitement about a new life and then have all of that come to a halt for some arbitrary reason.

    For what it is worth coming from a complete stranger at the tip of the African continent, I am sorry that happened to you and your family Keola. I hope that if I ever visit Ireland again I am not subjected to the same humiliation.

  35. Pingback: AlexiaBlogs » Blog Archive » Immigration Woes Mean Keola & Family Must Return to USA

  36. Anerican policy is no less stringent when applied to people from other continents.

    “We would still be scrabbling for rotting potatoes in muck…”

    I doubt it. The Irish dug their way across America in the past, making the railways. If you read “Rotha Mor and tSaoil” life there was quite difficult, generally. Things have changed a lot…

  37. My sister worked as a teacher in the UK for 2 years and made a few side trips to Ireland and various Euroepan Countries during her stay over there. We are a New Zealand family of Irish – Maori origins and always had pride in our Irish roots. My sister was treated quite badly at Dublin air port even though she had a UK work visa in her passport and proof of her proession and job in the UK as well as her return tickets to Birmingham. She was set aside and made to wait before being let in. On the other hand she noted that several Africans were let in with no questions asked of them and a Chinese girl throw a temper tantrum and verbally abuse the immigration officer and Irish people – the Chinese was allowed in. My sister was given a 1 month stamp. Ironically, as she sat aside she saw plane loads of Euroepans waved through and only superficial attention given to their documents. She felt insulted as you can imagine. She noted that in Dublin air port so many of the staff were non-Irish and that in Dublin the city seemed to be full of Africans and Chinese and Eastern Europeans. She told me that an Irish-American lady she spoke to (a lady in her 70s) was also poorly treated by Irish immigration after arriving from Boston. Maybe it is better to be Nigerian, Chinese or Polish in modern Ireland as they seem to be let in with no problems but no Irish immigration preferred to stop a Kiwi primary teacher and an old lady visiting her cousin.

  38. I think you will be flagged and pulled aside for things you do when under the view of the passport control CCTV cameras. Don’t expect to be told what you did to get yourself set aside for a one-month entry stamp. Just know that if you shift through papers, jump the queue or chat incessantly on your mobile phone while awaiting passport clearance, you’re more likely to be stop-cocked by Irish immigration.

  39. Children of non-EU students
    It has been decided by the Dept. of Justice, Equality & Law Reform that children of non-EEA/EU students who are currently enrolled in public schools will be allowed to stay in those schools to complete the current academic year.

    It is intended that at the end of the current academic year, children of non-EEA/EU students will not be allowed to enrol in public schools. Such children will be required to enrol in private fee paying schools. For information on primary and secondary schools in Ireland please see

  40. It may sound disgusting to the family of Keola and to some concerned citizen; while being assured by the assured by the Gardaí in Cork and by UCC that there was no issue with him coming and in the end she was stopped at the airport.

    But in the side of the Irish immigration they are just pushing what is there rules/policy, although Keola had given the assurance it doesn’t that her families are part of that assurance.

    All i have said is just a point of view and not an argument.. just to be fair for both sides..


    New York Immigration Lawyer Marina Shepelsky, located in Brooklyn, assists clients from the New York metro area and across the United States in all immigration and naturalization matters

  41. Dan, the problem continues to be a complete inconsistency in the application and communication of the rules. Thanks for the link to Marina.

    At the same time as we’re blocking people like Keola from entering the country we have our Taoiseach asking the US Congress to rubber-stamp all the illegal Irish in the US! We have some neck.

  42. Quote ” At the same time as we’re blocking people like Keola from entering the country we have our Taoiseach asking the US Congress to rubber-stamp all the illegal Irish in the US! We have some neck.”

    Keola was not blocked from entering Ireland.

    He was permitted in as a student, every student knows that the law states that students cannot have dependents.

    i feel sorry that this gentleman had a rough time in moving over and then the trouble of having to return but many students would like to have family members move with them but the law cannot be flexible.

    This gentleman says he was advised by cork immigration that it was ok for dependents to move with him, i hope ihe gave the name of the officer for costing him money and time.

  43. Keola has moved on, went to New Zealand for his Ph.d., where he and his family were welcomed with open arms, and is probably better off for it.

    I had and have no desire to cause any trouble for anyone at Cork or even the one lying bastard in Dublin responsible for the whole fiasco. Nor do I hold the country or its laws responsible. I’ll go back someday, as a visitor no doubt.