Cabinet to discuss Trump travel ban and St Patrick’s day visit

US pre-clearance at Irish airports to be reviewed, and Kenny's US visit to go ahead

A woman poses for a photograph beside a piece of street art, by artist ADW, lampooning US president Donald Trump in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. Photograph: Laura Hutton

A woman poses for a photograph beside a piece of street art, by artist ADW, lampooning US president Donald Trump in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. Photograph: Laura Hutton

 

Politicians from across the Dáil have said immigration pre-clearance to the US in Dublin and Shannon airports offers significant benefits and opportunities for Ireland.

There were also widespread calls, however, for the system’s operation to be reviewed in light of US president Donald Trump’s order that halted the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely banned refugees from Syria and blocked entry for 90 days for citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he had asked for a “complete review” of the US pre-clearance facilities in Ireland. A number of Ministers had requested him to do so.

The Cabinet is expected to discuss Mr Trump’s ban at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, as well as the Taoiseach’s St Patrick’s week visit to the White House.

A memo will also be brought to Cabinet to discuss ministerial travel for St Patrick’s week.

It is understood that, with Brexit in mind, most senior Ministers will be sent to European Union countries, with longer-haul trips left to junior Ministers.

However, as well as Mr Kenny, those travelling to the United States include Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, who will visit the west coast of America.

Call for investigation

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone on Monday called for an investigation into the operation of Mr Trump’s policy at United States immigration pre-clearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon airports.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten also supported Ms Zappone’s call for legal clarity around the pre-clearance facilities. Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, the Minister of State for Disability Issues, who sits at the Cabinet table, are also expected to express concerns at Tuesday’s meeting, either on the issue of pre-clearance facilities or Mr Kenny’s trip to Washington.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said ending pre-clearance at Shannon and Dublin airports would “remove a valuable advantage we have and be a serious mistake for Ireland”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said Mr Kenny must “ensure that Irish airports do not enforce the fundamentally unjust order” of Mr Trump.

Mr Ross said he is “very concerned” about Mr Trump’s order, which he said has “has earth-shattering consequences globally”.

“No one could expect any Irish Government Minister to approve of what he did,” he added.

‘Caught in difficulties’

On the issue of pre-clearance, Mr Ross said: “I think at this stage it is probably unwise to say what would happen at all, but it is important that Irish people aren’t caught in difficulties as well.”

He said that Irish citizens are not implementing Mr Trump’s policies.

“They are not being implemented by the DAA or by any staff of DAA, or any staff like that. Those are being implemented by US people.”

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said “what president Trump did was wrong”.

He said that an “assessment” of pre-clearance should now be carried out, but added: “We should do it in the context that pre-clearance offers great opportunity and benefit for people looking to travel to Ireland and America.” He said it is “very important” that Mr Kenny’s trip to Washington goes ahead.

This view was shared by former president Mary McAleese, who said such a meeting would offer an opportunity for “a free and frank discussion about events of this weekend which, I think it’s fair to say, virtually every European leader and most people who I would admire and whose politics I would admire, are sorely heartbroken by these events”.

“We expect better from the man who inherits this phrase, the leader of the free world. He’s not my leader.”

Formidable links

Ms McAleese said the links between Ireland and the US “are formidable”, and that she would like to think the Taoiseach, “when he takes that opportunity to renew the bonds of friendship between Ireland and the United States”, would also “remind us how those bonds came about and in what circumstances they came about”.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the ban on refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries going to the US raises “threats to human rights”.

Mr Kenny reiterated last night that he intended to accept the invitation to the White House on St Patrick’s Day.

“We have had great influence in the US over the years and we still have that influence. And we intend to use it,” he said. “It’s more important now than ever before to be able speak face-to-face with president Trump to explain to him the matters of importance for us here.”

To decline the invitation, Mr Kenny said, would be to “become isolationist”.