FF leader sharply criticises Donald Trump’s knowledge of Ireland

Taoiseach says it is new information to him the US president attended a Sinn Féin fundraiser

US president Donald Trump while making a phone call to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington in June. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/ EPA

US president Donald Trump while making a phone call to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington in June. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/ EPA

 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has sharply criticised US president Donald Trump’s knowledge of Ireland.

Mr Martin told the Dáil it remained roughly on a par with when, before becoming president, he was welcomed to a US Sinn Féin fundraiser by party president Gerry Adams.

“On that occasion, which was a couple of months before the Canary Wharf bombing, Deputy Adams spoke admiringly of Mr Trump, even saying Sinn Féin was happy to play ‘the Trump card’,’’ he added.

Mr Martin said Ireland must have a large dose of realism when discussing what it could achieve from bilateral discussions with powerful countries.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was new information to him that Mr Trump had attended a Sinn Féin fundraiser and very curious.

“I can confirm he has not attended any Fine Gael fundraisers, to my knowledge,’’ he added.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett recalled he had asked the previous taoiseach Enda Kenny if he thought Mr Trump’s election manifesto and promises were racist and dangerous, and he agreed they were.

“I want to ask the Taoiseach the same question now that Donald Trump is president,’’ he added.

Mr Varadkar said he had answered those questions in the past.

“I did so in front of a television camera and what I said was there for everyone to see,’’ he said.

He said he did not wish to withdraw or repeat what he had said because there was a relationship that had to be built up and maintained between the two countries.

“It is a very important relationship and one that will last longer than any president or taoiseach or administration or government,’’ he added.

He said in meetings and engagements with the US administration, Ireland would not hesitate in sharing its views on issues such as human rights, climate change and on areas of foreign policy where there was disagreement.

“Countries that are friends, and America is a friend of Ireland, should be able to speak the truth to each other and we will do that,’’ he added.

Asked about the appointment of Fine Gael Waterford TD John Deasy as Government envoy to the US Congress, Mr Varadkar said he would particularly deal with issues relating to migration and the undocumented Irish.

He said it did not supersede the role of Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney or the Irish ambassador.

“Deputy Deasy will report to me but he will work under the umbrella of the Department of Foreign Affairs and with the new ambassador, Dan Mulhall, who will go there in September,’’ he added.

Mr Varadkar said the particular role related to the US Congress because it was important Ireland had a greater presence on Capitol Hill.

He said Mr Deasy had worked there for 15 years and had good connections and a good knowledge of how congress worked.