‘My new friend’ – Donald Trump and Enda Kenny

The Irish Times view: Ireland and US

 

Just as Donald Trump has brought a new dimension to the notion of truth to the White House, he is also rewriting the language of diplomacy. And by its new evolving standard, Taoiseach Enda Kenny may consider the US president’s elevation of him to “my new friend” and Trump’s “I love Ireland, I really love Ireland, yeah” good returns on his politically risky St Patrick’s Day encounter. It could all have been so much worse.

Kenny, despite a perhaps unfortunately worded congratulations to his host on his election victory, managed above all to avoid the impression of fawning on the president. He also, by his own account, managed in his “constructive, beneficial” discussion, to get through with some issues of concern, notably immigration, to a president who does not have a reputation as a good listener.

Kenny raised with the president, the head of Homeland Security and congressional leaders the issue of increased legal paths to immigration, including the stalled E3 visa scheme, and the regularisation of the 50,000-plus Irish undocumented.

What the president made of it all we can only guess at, although an overheard Trump lunch aside to House Speaker Paul Ryan on the immigration challenge – “we’re going to do something about that” – might give some hope. Trump being Trump, however, it could also mean that he intends to step up deportations. The president’s familiar insistence that he is preoccupied initially with the deportation of those who have committed criminal offences was of little comfort – the bar is set so low that, as Kenny acknowledged, Irish illegals have a serious challenge in even dealing with minor road traffic offences.

Trump’s enthusiastic embrace of an invitation to visit Ireland – a diplomatic inevitability – constitutes something of a hospital pass to Kenny’s soon-to-be successor. Unlike Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, or indeed Queen Elizabeth II, Trump cannot expect a cheery reception. A hundred thousand welcomes, perhaps. But very different, and unlikely to play well back home.

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