Terrified in Trumpland: Irish-Americans and US citizens in Ireland react

Safety, gay and immigration rights, and corporation tax under a Trump administration are some of the concerns among Americans-in-Ireland and Irish-in-America

‘The idea of this country is one thing, and the reality is another.’ Comedian and writer Maeve Higgins, who has lived in the US for three years, beside the Brooklyn Bridge. Photograph by Michael Nagle

‘The idea of this country is one thing, and the reality is another.’ Comedian and writer Maeve Higgins, who has lived in the US for three years, beside the Brooklyn Bridge. Photograph by Michael Nagle

 

It is as clichéd as the bowl of shamrock on St Patrick’s Day to say that Ireland and the United States of America always had a unique relationship. But like most clichés, this is one that happens to be rooted in reality - or it was, until last night.

But will that relationship survive the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States? What does his election mean for Irish people living in the US, and for Americans living in Ireland on a personal level? And did anyone on either side of the Atlantic see it coming?

A panel of Americans-in-Ireland and Irish-in-America give their views on what President Trump means to them, to their country, and to the country of their birth.

Maeve Higgins, writer and comedian. From Cobh, Co Cork, Maeve has been living in New York for three years

“I was coming home in a taxi from a show at 1am with a taxi driver who is a Senegalese man, and we were both in bits. The election wasn’t actually called until a few hours later, but at that stage, it was becoming obvious.

“Before last night, I did think there was a slim chance that Trump could win. I was worried that people were saying one thing in the polls, especially white people, and voting another way.

“As usual minorities will get the blame for not showing up, but that’s not what decided this election. It was white people. I’m here on a non-immigrant visa. I personally feel like I’m protected because I’m white and Western, so I don’t expect to get deported any time soon, but I feel that a lot of brown people here who are undocumented or on temporary visas are very frightened this morning. This is a man who has called Mexicans rapists and murderers, who has called for the mass deportation of Muslims.

“Race was the main issue, but misogyny also played a huge part in it. This is a man who boasted about sexually assaulting women, and he was running against a woman who was highly qualified for the position. The really shocking thing is that 40 percent of white women chose him. Misogyny is deep-rooted, and it’s in all of us, men and women.

“I’ve been here now for three years. There is a lot that I love about America - it’s full of opportunity and full of curiosity. I feel very deeply invested in this country. But the idea of this country is one thing, and the reality is another, and I need to figure out how big that chasm is, and if it can be bridged.”

Jennifer Westrup, Consultant medical oncologist. From Minnesota, Jennifer lives in Dublin and works at the Beacon Hospital

“Hillary would have been a better President. She’s much more experienced, and I’m not afraid to say I would have loved to see a woman President.

“On a professional level, I’m so disappointed too. We worked so hard to get universal healthcare in America, and worked so hard at so many things on a social platform for Americans, and I’m concerned that’s going to be rolled back.

“I agree with [US Ambassador to Ireland] Kevin O’Malley when he said that on a personal level, this doesn’t change our countries’ relationship with each other. I really believe that to be true.”

John Harnett, president of the Irish Technology Leadership Group. John is from Limerick and moved to the US in 1998. He lives in Los Gatos, California

“I got seven or eight texts last night asking me if I was thinking about moving back to Ireland. Those are things that are top of mind, especially with kids: what kind of stability will there be here? I’ve lived here for 18 years, and I’m very happy in California. I’m just pausing now and trying to figure out what is the right thing to do – over the course of the next six to 10 months, a lot more will be revealed, and we’ll be able to make a decision.

“The biggest concern is the safety of the country, and the relationships the United States has with other countries, and with the Middle East. Will the US suddenly become a much greater target?

“On the other hand, Trump made a reasonable acceptance speech, and hopefully he has advisers around him and they can help him take a more mature approach. But there are many, many concerning things he said in his campaign: building a wall, blocking out Muslims, appointing a special prosecutor for Hillary, disbanding Nato.

“The Irish relationship with the US has been very strong, but more on the Democratic side. He has always been saying he wants to bring jobs back to America - that is definitely something that’s concerning for us as a nation.

“Last night, I saw some talk of a ‘Calexit’ – the suggestion that California might break out on its own and become an independent state.”

Jason Nebenzahl, managing director, PHD Media. Born and raised in New York, he has lived in Ireland since 1999

“You can only hope that Donald Trump proves himself a more balanced president than he did a candidate – because at the end of the day, he’s won the election, and we have to accept that.

“So you have to think about the future, and hope that there’s less rhetoric; and more substance in terms of accepting the needs of America to look after its interests, to grow and develop. And also more willingness to acknowledge America’s responsibility within the global landscape.

“I didn’t see this coming. I went to bed last night thinking she [Clinton] would do it, and I was wrong, like so many other people. I read the newspapers on a daily basis, and the more I read, and the more I believed Hillary Clinton was going to be able to do it. I guess what you quickly realise when you look at the map on a morning like today is how polarised American politics is, and how important a few key states can become so key to deciding the future of the country.

“The future of Ireland’s relationship with the US is unknown now. I can’t imagine any relationship where there would be animosity between the US and Ireland, but I certainly don’t think Donald Trump’s America will regard Ireland as a high priority. You can argue Ireland had some undue influence over the years, and maybe that’s now in question – but hopefully that’s not the case.

“My personal view is that the pressure surrounding corporation tax rates has been as intense as it can be, and comes from Europe as much as from America. It’s an issue very much to the forefront. I can’t foresee any greater pressure on corporation tax, because it’s already pretty high – and that’s coming from both directions, Brussels and Washington.”

Quentin Fottrell, writer and editor. He moved to New York from Dublin in 2011

“I woke up on Wednesday to a text message from a friend saying, “How will this impact your right to get married?” I don’t have a vote here in the US, or in Ireland, so I am both an insider and outsider. Trump has said he will appoint a conservative judge to the Supreme Court and that was one of the biggest causes of concern for people. There is a vacancy in the Supreme Court and Trump has said he will appoint a Supreme Court judge along the lines of the late ultra-conservative Judge Antonin Scalia, and has even said he would “strongly consider” overturning the court’s decision on marriage equality, Obamacare, and he opposes Roe Vs Wade.

“Trump’s comments about banning Muslims, mocking a reporter with a disability, forcing himself on women, have been traumatising and shocking for many people. A Republican friend, who was not a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump supporter, told me that she would miss the dignity that the Obamas brought to the White House. It’s a new era of aggressive nationalism that hasn’t been seen in several generations that has left people feeling confused and even scared, particularly immigrants. Who could have imagined that Ireland would be a more socially progressive and welcoming place than America in 2016?”

Laura George, co-owner, Image Publications. Originally from Los Angeles, she moved to Ireland 30 years ago

“There are no checks and balances for this man. He has the House, he has the Senate, he will have the Supreme Court – there is literally nothing in the system to keep him in check.

“If I was able to find something positive in this election, it’s that it has caused more self-reflection than anything I have ever experienced. It’s made me look at my own attitude – why didn’t I support Hillary more strongly? Is there some deep-rooted suspicion of her in me, for standing by her man? I’m mixed-race, and I have actually had more conversations about race in the past year, positive and negative, than at any other time in my life, and maybe that’s a positive too.

“I feel the media really failed here. They should have been after his taxes from the get-go. But they were sort of blinded by the white noise Trump created.

“The other huge irony is that Trump is a man who doesn’t believe in science. And last night, the ways the data let us down, shows that maybe he’s right; maybe we shouldn’t believe in science. The media was looking at numbers instead of doing reporting on the ground. The complete failure of the polls and the media are the other big stories of this election.”

Yvonne Ivory, German professor, South Carolina. From Dublin, Yvonne has been living in the US for most of her adult life

“I always thought this was a place where people, regardless of political stance, basically tried to do the decent thing. At least half the population is embracing a stance that is the opposite of decent.

“I take solace in the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Most people who cast a vote did not vote for division and demagoguery.

“One of the most interesting comments I heard on TV last night was PBS analyst Mark Shields, who said that this changes political rhetoric forever in this country. Now people standing for even the lowliest of elected offices may feel entitled to use insulting, angry, threatening, demeaning language against their opponent.”

Jacinta Tobin, Head of sales for a start-up. From Clare, she moved to the US in 2000

“A lot of Irish people in the States are in shock this morning. The Canadian Immigration website crashed last night. But after the initial shock, people are thinking about how they can fix this; what we can do for the next election. People are deeply worried, and there is a lot of anger, but hopefully we can harness that, and turn it into positive energy to do something good. With respect to the relationship with Ireland, I think our diplomatic channels are robust enough to protect that relationship.

“As to my own future, I weathered eight years of Bush, and I’m hoping this is just four years, and then we’ll see.”

Moira Shipsey, solicitor specialising in refugee law. She moved from Massachusetts to Ireland more than 30 years ago

“I think Trump’s election will have very far-reaching consequences on trade deals, the environment, the economy, immigration, healthcare and foreign policy. His relationship with Putin has the potential to affect the world. It’s mind-blowing.

“I wasn’t ready even for Obama to leave, but I was excited about the first female president. It is beyond comprehension that this was the outcome; it’s embarrassing. Who are these people voting for him? Who are these women in particular?

“As I was watching last night, I thought it would be all done and dusted as soon as she took Florida. Then as Florida slipped away, the shock started to set in, and state by state, it started to fall apart. It was shocking, devastating.

“I don’t know what it will mean in terms of what his approach to trade will be. I don’t know yet how it will affection immigration, healthcare, the environment, foreign policy. His relationship with Putin has the potential to affect the world. It’s mind-blowing.”

Margaret E Ward, entrepreneur. Born in New York to Irish parents, she moved to Ireland in May 1995

“The United States was founded as a nation of tolerance. This has now been completely turned on its head. The US we’re witnessing emerging now is an intolerant place, a place of winners and losers. You’re a winner if you’re a man, you’re white, you’re Christian and you’re heterosexual. And if you’re anything else, you’re a loser. I find it deeply, deeply disturbing.

“I’m worried for the United States and I’m worried for Europe – and yes, I think this is bad news for Ireland. Ireland is not on Trump’s radar at all, in any political sense.

“He is serious when he talks about bringing down corporation tax, and we’ll have to fight very hard to protect that. But even just to get on his radar will be a challenge. This is a very bad day.”

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