Kenny outlines to Trump Northern election outcome
Taoiseach tells US president about potential impacts of Brexit on Republic and the North
Former senator George Mitchell speaking at the Ireland Funds dinner in Washington. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Northern Ireland politics was high on the agenda on Thursday’s meetings between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and senior officials in the Trump administration and US Congress.
Speaking to reporters in the grounds of the White House after his meeting with Mr Trump in the Oval Office, the Taoiseach said he had discussed the issue of Northern Ireland in depth with the president.
“I gave the president a detailed outline of the outcome of the election in Northern Ireland, the fact that it is now a priority to put an executive that will provide a voice for Northern Ireland and that we have a clear agreement with the British government that there will be no return to a hard Border and no return to direct rule from London,” he said.
He also set out the potential impacts of Brexit on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“By the economic indicators we will be [the] most adversely affected; because of the currency fluctuations we are down over half a billion in the food industry in terms of business into Britain alone.”
The Taoiseach said that Mr Trump had asked a number of questions about Northern Ireland and what the presence of the hard Border meant in the past. “I pointed out to him about customs posts, sectarian violence and the engagement of the United States along with Europe in the peace process.”
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and the DUP’s Ian Paisley jnr were among attendees at the annual Speaker’s Lunch in the US Capitol on Thursday. Mr Adams also attended the annual St Patrick’s Day reception at the White House.
Northern Ireland was also referenced by the Taoiseach in his address to the Speaker’s Lunch, during which he said that “protecting the . . . peace process is one of Ireland’s core Brexit priorities”.
“I want to thank you for your ongoing, indispensable support for the Northern Ireland peace process, including Congress’s support for the International Fund for Ireland. In particular I’d like to thank the members of the Friends of Ireland so ably led by congressmen Peter King and Richie Neal. ”
Former senator George Mitchell, who played a leading role in the Irish peace process, was honoured at the annual Ireland Funds dinner on Wednesday night which was attended by the Taoiseach, US vice president Mike Pence and 35 members of Congress, including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.
In a lengthy speech, the former Northern Ireland envoy highlighted the role played by immigrants in America. In an implicit criticism of the policies being pursued by the Trump administration, Mr Mitchell said that America should focus on “who we want to enter and not just who he want to keep out or throw out”.
He added: “From the very beginning our country has been enriched by new people, new ideas, new vision, new energy,” noting that most of those behind America’s most successful companies including Apple, Amazon and Google had parents who were born abroad.”
Mr Kenny also met former US vice president Joe Biden for almost an hour at the Irish Embassy in Washington on Wednesday afternoon during which time the situation in the North was discussed.