Leading US media outlets welcome Kenny comments on immigration

Taoiseach defends decision to invite US president Donald Trump to Ireland

Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg speaks to Enda Kenny before the Taoiseach addressed staff at the Bloomberg headquarters in New York on Friday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Former mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg speaks to Enda Kenny before the Taoiseach addressed staff at the Bloomberg headquarters in New York on Friday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

He may have been inadvertently edged out of yesterday’s New York Times front-page picture showing US president Donald Trump, vice-president Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan descending the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC, but Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s comments on immigration were broadly welcomed by US media outlets yesterday.

The article on page 16 of the New York Times appeared under the headline: “Irish Premier uses St Patrick’s Day Ritual to Lecture Trump on Immigration”.

The piece states that, while the visit “should have been a delightful distraction for Mr Trump,” instead the US president found himself in a roomful of “kelly-green-clad lawmakers” in the Capitol being lectured by Mr Kenny about the virtues of the US’s immigrant legacy and the contributions immigrants had made to the country.

The Washington Post was more hard-hitting. Its article described how the day began with a “cringe-worthy, mildly offensive Irish cliché” when Mr Pence greeted guests at the annual St Patrick’s Day breakfast with the words: “Top of the morning.”

Widespread applause

While Mr Kenny’s description of St Patrick as an immigrant during his speech at the annual White House reception gained widespread attention and applause from non-Irish media outlets, many in Ireland questioned his decision not to publicly criticise Mr Trump’s immigration policy.

Mr Kenny’s bonhomie with Mr Trump contrasted with German chancellor Angela Merkel’s reception at the White House on Friday, when the US president appeared to snub the respected German chancellor.

In contrast, Mr Trump took to Twitter to wish his “Irish friends” a happy St Patrick’s Day. “Happy Lá Fheile Phadraig to all of my great Irish friends!,” the president tweeted from his personal account.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach defended his decision to invite the US president to Ireland when he met Mr Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday, saying he was “very happy” to extend the invitation.

Speaking at the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York, he said: “In respect of the invitation to the president, it is normal courtesy in our country that if you receive an invitation from somebody you return that invitation at another time. I said to the president I would be very happy to invite him during the course of his presidency.”

He said he had a “very engaging, very constructive” discussion with the US president.

“Donald Trump is the democratically elected president of the United States. Before I came to meet with him I said my intention was to work with the Irish Government, with the new administration to the mutual benefit of both country.”

He continued: “I had a very engaging, very constructive discussion, not just with the president but with the vice-president, Mike Pence; general John Kelly; and other members of his team; and we hope to follow through very constructively on those matters.”

Undocumented

The Taoiseach’s comments on immigration in the White House were welcomed by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg as he introduced Mr Kenny at an event at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. “It was great to see him raise the issue of undocumented immigrants when he was at the White House yesterday. This is a country that has benefited from immigrants. Without immigrants we wouldn’t have a country,” the Bloomberg founder said.

But last night, a group called Irish Stand, supported by Irish and US artists including Liam Neeson, Rosie O’Donnell, Gabriel Byrne and Maeve Higgins, held an event in the Riverside Church in Manhattan to protest against the Trump presidency and the decision by Mr Kenny to invite Mr Trump to Ireland.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said the event hoped to send a “clear message out that Irish people stand in unity with people of different races in calling for justice and equality in the US, Ireland and around the world”. He added that it “had never been more important to make a stand and speak out”.