We may become Donald Trump’s EU lapdog

Enda Kenny’s critics have claimed in recent days that his conciliatory approach means the Irish wolfhound risks becoming Trump’s EU lapdog, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and US President Donald Trump at a Friends of Ireland lunch at the Capitol Building yesterday. Picture: Niall Carson/PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and US President Donald Trump at a Friends of Ireland lunch at the Capitol Building yesterday. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

Should we be satisfied, or scared?

As he lumbered towards the podium with his new best friend and guest of honour gazing on, US president Donald Trump was full of the joys of the emerald isle.

For him, Ireland and its people are now tremendous, wonderful and to be held close to his beating, bigly heart — whether we really want to be or not.

“To all my friends, my new friend Taoiseach. We sat, we talked, and I think... we’re friends now, right?” The Donald asked to rapturous applause at the Capitol Hill speakers lunch.

“The Irish have had tremendous success all over the world, and in this country. With the US it’s [Ireland] going to be closer than ever. Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue, but never forget to remember those who have stuck by you.

“We love Ireland, we love the people of Ireland, tremendous,” he said, before reaching out to grab — don’t panic — the hand of a Taoiseach who is seemingly comfortable with it all.

The thought of a US president openly embracing Ireland, planning to travel here and describing us as friends at first sight usually sparks nationwide swooning. However, the response is not so clear-cut this time.

Ireland’s economic and societal needs mean Mr Kenny felt he had to saddle up to Mr Trump — a man whose policies he just nine months ago called “racist and dangerous”, an issue both blanked yesterday — and play house.

But with racism, sexism, misogyny and bullying framing everything this president does, the embryonic bromance risks becoming an abusive relationship that will leave Ireland battered for the next four years.

The difficult dance Mr Kenny was forced into playing was apparent throughout events yesterday, although the Taoiseach appeared to at times enjoy his newfound global importance.

After the lunch, from left, Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, US President Donald Trump, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Peter T King. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

A breakfast meeting with Irish-American US vice-president Mike Pence — during which Mr Kenny referred to Mr Trump as Mr Bush (some friend) and Mr Pence began by wishing everyone a cringe-inducing “top of the morning” — was smothered in misty-eyed tales of the “old country”.

An Oval Office mid-morning meeting with Mr Trump, where media advisor Steve Bannon was, aptly, standing to the far right, even saw Mr Trump extend pleasantries to the media after one female reporter clashed heads with a jostling US camera.

“Guys, hold on, you can hurt these people,” he said pointing to Pence, “but the rest are my guests”.

The sight of Mr Trump and Mr Pence — now the proud owners of a list of “gifts” (not bribes) that would keep anyone happy — enjoying Mr Kenny’s company at the shamrock ceremony last night should be good news for Ireland.

So should the fact Mr Kenny felt comfortable enough to joke — and see Mr Trump laugh — when he said the Irish ability to change people meant the president had “just read from a script entirely”.

But it is difficult to shake that there is something worryingly wrong with this scene.

Mr Kenny’s critics have claimed in recent days that his conciliatory approach means the Irish wolfhound risks becoming Trump’s EU lapdog.

The Taoiseach has countered that the political friendship and turning a blind eye to his divisive policies is key to Ireland’s continuing recovery, but unless we’re careful, we will soon find out that even a president occasionally needs a ‘man’s best friend’ by his side.

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