Should Ireland host Donald Trump? We ask opposing TDs for their views

Leo Varadkar says Trump invitation is ‘absolutely appropriate, normal hospitality’

US president Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar held a 40-minute bilateral meeting at the White House on Thursday at which the issue of the undocumented Irish in the US was discussed. Video: The White House

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar extended an invitation to Donald Trump to visit Ireland when he met the US president for the first time on Thursday in the White House.

Speaking in Washington, Mr Varadkar said the invitation extended by former taoiseach Enda Kenny still stood.

“Donald Trump has invited me to Washington DC. I’m here this week. He’s going to invite me to his house, and I think it’s absolutely appropriate, normal hospitality that when someone invites you to their country, their house, you reciprocate with an invitation,” the Taoiseach said.

“I don’t play golf, so I won’t be playing a round of golf with him if he comes to Doonbeg, but perhaps it will be an opportunity for him to visit some of the Irish companies that invest in the US, and see the Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. ”

Mr Varadkar’s predecessor Mr Kenny extended an invitation to Mr Trump to Ireland during his visit to the White House on St Patrick’s Day last year, when the US president described Mr Kenny as “my new friend, a great guy”.

However, Mr Varadkar expressed reservations at the time, telling RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke he would not invite Mr Trump to Ireland. During the interview, O’Rourke asked Mr Varadkar, who was minister for social protection at the time, whether the invite should have been offered. Here’s what was said:

Seán O’Rourke : Should he invite Trump to visit when he’s there in March?

Leo Varadkar: That’s going to be a decision for him [Mr Kenny], he has to make that in March when he’s there.

SOR: Would you invite him?

LV: I wouldn’t, but that’s a decision of course for the taoiseach.

SOR: Why wouldn’t you?

LV: I’m not sure what purpose it would serve.

SOR: The speeches are there – take your pick from anybody’s word processor ... increase links, boost trade, boost tourism ... the kind of attention that comes with a visit.

LV: Yeah, that’s a visit that goes well. For example, the last visit, the only visit I was involved in, was President Obama’s visit; tens of thousands of people in College Green turned up to hear what he had to say, and cheer him. You wouldn’t necessarily assume that’s the kind of visit it would be.

Red carpet: Donald Trump with his private jet after landing in Shannon airport in 2014, when the US presidential campaign was still in its early stages.
Red carpet: Donald Trump with his private jet after landing in Shannon airport in 2014, when the US presidential campaign was still in its early stages.

We have asked two TDs for their views on the proposed visit. Richard Boyd-Barrett of People Before Profit is opposed to a visit, but Noel Rock of Fine Gael argues the visit should go ahead. Have your say in our online poll in this article. (If reading in the app, click here to participate in our poll)

Richard Boyd-Barrett, People Before Profit:

 

“The US president should not be invited to Ireland.

It would send an incredibly powerful message if the Irish Government, or any government, said to Donald Trump, ‘You have crossed too many lines and we’re not willing to engage with you unless you roll back from these dangerous policies that attack minorities and migrants or threaten war and environmental destruction.

American business decisions in Europe or in Ireland are not dictated by the office of the president, particularly a president like Trump. They are decided by big corporations and where they feel they can make the biggest profits. Refusing to invite Trump to this country would have little, if any, impact on such commercial decisions.

On the other hand, huge numbers of Americans would cheer if an Irish leader had enough political gumption to take a principled stand against the dangerous, racist, sexist, war-mongering policies of Trump – policies that the American people themselves are increasingly turning against.

It is very interesting that Leo Varadkar has been congratulating Trump for his policies of reducing taxes on corporations because they are very similar policies to those of the Irish Government. It seems it is more important to Leo Varadkar to boost the profits of big corporations than to address the global inequality caused by the failure of corporations to pay taxes or to challenge Trump’s most obnoxious and dangerous policies.

Rather than welcoming Donald Trump to Ireland, the Taoiseach should adopt a policy of robust opposition to his racist, anti-migrant and militaristic policies.

He should say to the US president that unless the US is willing to rejoin the world in trying to address issues like climate change, that there’s really very little to talk about.

He should insist that unless he’s willing to halt massive arms sales to dictatorships like the Saudi regime or desist from threats to use nuclear weapons in Korea, he is not welcome on our shores.”

Noel Rock, Fine Gael:

“Donald Trump, as the president of the United States, should be invited to Ireland. Now, the opposing side will say he shouldn’t be invited. And that’s an easy argument, in a way. Fingers in ears. Build a wall. I see it the opposite way: invite him in.

Show him how our lack of Border serves us well. Show him how we’ve weathered the challenges of inward migration and are now flourishing. Show him why we’re the best small country in the world.

The politics of ‘no’ is a zero-sum game. It’s inward-looking, isolationist and trigger-happy. Why exactly would we be refusing him an invite? Because we don’t agree with the path he has set out?

This invites two obvious follow-on questions: One, are we not better to challenge him than ignore him? Two, where do you draw the line?

There are no world leaders that Ireland and the Irish people unanimously, homogeneously agree with. That’s just a fact. Do we boycott May because we don’t like Brexit? Macron because we don’t see eye-to-eye on corporation tax? Of course we don’t, and nor should we.

Donald Trump should be invited to Ireland as the President of the United States. That doesn’t mean rolling out the red carpet. Or being sycophantic. Or endorsing his policies. It simply means he should be invited.

He should be invited so the Government can warn him of the destructive path he’s setting down. He should be invited so the Irish people have an opportunity to express their distaste towards his policies. He should be invited so he can no longer claim he has the support of the Irish people when campaigning in 2020.

He should be invited because, quite frankly, the United States is a friend of Ireland’s – and friends should be assertive with each other when necessary. This is one such time. Our relationship with the United States will long outlast a Trump presidency.

Diplomacy is an art practised over decades: damage to national relationships, once done, takes a long time to repair. Diplomacy does not reward rash actions or bad tempers: hence why Trump is doing such damage to the image of America overseas, and why so many State Department officials have stepped down since his election.

Refusing an invite to Donald Trump would be playing into his hands and would be exhibiting the same inward-looking, isolationist type of policy that he himself espouses. Irish people, I believe, are bigger than that. We don’t build walls, we build bridges. Invite him over, and challenge his ideas with our own, because ours are superior.”