The Government will have “blunt, straight and honest discussions” with a “friendly country” when President Donald Trump visits Ireland later this year according to Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.
Speaking at a jobs announcement in Shanbally, Co Cork, the Tánaiste said that Ireland experiences differences of opinion with the US in terms of foreign policy, but that should have no bearing on the visit of a sitting president to the State.
“Yes, we have strong disagreements with the policy decisions but we also have a very friendly relationship with the United States. A very historic relationship and a very close one. President Trump is the democratically elected president of the United States.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t have direct discussions from a policy perspective. That is how mature countries interact with each other. Rather than taking approaches that are unhelpful and will damage a relationship, we will have blunt, straight and honest discussions with a friendly country.”
The Tánaiste said that the relationship between Ireland and the US goes way beyond individual presidents and individual taoisigh and it is important that we maintain that bond.
“Virtually every president since [Ronald] Reagan has visited Ireland. We have an open invitation to come to Washington at any point in time. That doesn’t mean we agree with President Trump on many policy areas. We don’t. We are vocal on that. We don’t agree with his approach on climate change. We have a lot of concerns in terms of his approach on migration. The approach in relation to international trade and the imposition of tariffs we have real concerns with and many more areas as well. ”
He said he didn’t see any inconsistency in him tweeting about US policy in the Middle East and then welcoming the decision by the US president to come to Ireland.
“I think I reflect the mood of most people who have been following the Middle East peace process over the last 12 months in expressing real concern at the decision of the US administration to dramatically cut funding not only from the Palestinian authority but also from the UN organisation that actually supports, looks after and educates millions of Palestinians not just on the West Bank and Gaza but also in Lebanon and Jordan.
“Not for the first time we have a difference of opinion on foreign policy with the US. That is a different issue to whether or not the US president is facilitated in a visit to Europe by coming to Ireland. ”
When asked what he would say to the president given the opportunity he said he would outline Irish concerns in relation to a number of key US policy initiatives.
“And outline the Irish perspective and the EU perspective and I would do that in quite a direct way because that is how President Trump operates and he wants and certainly delivers very direct messages himself.
“I think it is important for partners and other countries to be candid with him in terms of concerns we have on many of the policy areas he is pursuing.”
He added that Ireland has close business and historical links with the US.
“Are we seriously saying in Ireland that the door is closed to President Trump visiting this country given the fact that we 700 US companies operating here? Nearly 200,000 jobs linked to that investment. We have well over 100 Irish companies in the US. We have a long personal and historic connection with the US.”
He said protesters were entitled to register their unhappiness with the visit and that they were part of a “functioning and healthy democracy.”
President Trump’s visit is the first of a sitting US president since 2011 when President Obama visited Dublin and Offaly with the then first lady Michelle Obama.
Earlier, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that as “an open economy with a very deep relationship with economic and social relationship with America, we will be making the case for openness, for the value of our relationship with the EU and how important the transAtlantic relationship has been between Ireland and US.
"Donald Trump is the democratically elected president of the United States, the Taoiseach is always welcome in Washington and an American president always has to be welcome in Dublin and Ireland," he told RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke programme. He added, "Government will be putting forward a dignified welcome for President Trump like the Taoiseach received when he visited Washington for St Patrick's Day."
Meanwhile, Mr Coveney rejected suggestions by a reporter that the visit would have any bearing on Brexit negotiations and that representations should be made asking for a delay in the president coming to Ireland.
In relation to Brexit, the Tánaiste would not be drawn on whether a second referendum was a good idea, stressing that was a matter for British politicians and the British population.
He added that he was confident that a good deal would be struck on Brexit. He insisted that the Government wouldn’t succumb to the pressure of a ticking clock.
“Ireland won’t be pressured in to anything. I have made it very clear that Ireland has maintained a consistent position until now and it is not going to change. We are not going to sign up to any deal that will result in Border infrastructure re-emerging on the island of Ireland. It is a difficult negotiation. It is the biggest priority in my role in Government to get the right deal on Brexit. ”