Adams avoids criticising Trump as rest of left unites in outrage at win
Sinn Féin leader careful not to make any personal comments about US president-elect
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams made no criticism of US president-elect Donald Trump in the Dáil. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Left-wing parties mostly reacted in an unsurprising manner to the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. Mick Barry of the AAA-PBP alliance was typical, telling the Dáil on Wednesday: “We now have a racist, sexist bigoted billionaire in the White House.”
However, there was one exception to the outrage and the vitriol: Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. In the same debate, he was careful not to make any personal comments about Trump, though he did not specifically commend his success.
Most importantly, however, he made absolutely no criticism of the president-elect. For a leader of the left, that raised some eyebrows. Even Taoiseach Enda Kenny has not held back in his criticism of the more egregious comments made by Trump, describing some of his sentiments as racist.
Adams told the Dáil: “It is not our business to go against the result of any democratic vote taken in anyone else’s country. For a long time, that was the great irritant in our affairs, in that others decided what we should do.
“One does not have to agree with the outcome or the policies of those who are elected. In Ireland and the United States Sinn Féin has argued with US presidents, including personally, on foreign policy, particularly on Palestine, Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq, and we will continue to do so.”
That was extraordinarily mild for somebody who has excoriated governments here for advocating policies far more temperate than those of the hyperbolic Trump.
The US is a sensitive subject for Sinn Féin. It has a large support base there, and the Friends of Sinn Féin has raised millions of dollars over the years. In the US, SF talks not of economics, or of social equality, but reunification.
Most of its supporters are not aware of SF’s policy positions. For them, SF reflects on their sense of Irishness, on Irish identity and their desire to see a unified island.
Does Adams’s soft reaction to Trump’s election reflect party opinion? Yes. Individually, Sinn Féin people said they abhorred Trump but would not criticise the party strategy of recognising the office of president, irrespective of who the incumbent was.
Adams has previously had to respond to a slightly embarrassing video which shows him saluting Donald Trump by name when he attended a fundraising dinner for Sinn Féin in New York in 1995.
Among the guests at the $200-a-plate dinner at an upmarket Manhattan hotel were Bianca Jagger, Tom Hayden, film-maker Michael Moore and a former mayor of New York, David Dinkins.
In his speech, Adams singled out Trump for praise, leaving the podium to shake his hand. Video footage shows Trump waving to the crowd. However, Trump has never donated and came that night as a guest of others.
None of the top 10 donors to Sinn Féin in the US has public links to Trump’s campaign, or identified themselves as supporters. The party’s biggest donor, Atlantic Philanthropies (and its founder Chuck Feeney), deliberately did not align with any party.
Many of the others are the principals of large construction companies in the New York region. Some, such as JT Magen & Company, would have dealt with Trump, one of the city’s biggest real-estate owner.