JIM POWER: Enda Kenny should visit Donald Trump, but must not hold his hand

The world of politics has been thrown into total and utter disarray over the past couple of weeks. Donald Trump has hit the ground running as US president and has introduced a number of executive orders that have created global apoplexy.

Commentators here and elsewhere are going berserk, but they and the rest of us are currently powerless in the face of a president who is intent on flexing his muscles. After all, at the end of the day, as leader of the country, he should be entitled to stop most anybody he wants to from entering the US.

In fact many of those who voted for him, voted for this exactly. We may not like it, but that is the reality we have to live with for the moment.

The usual suspects were jumping up and down in the Dáil and the media, arguing that Enda Kenny should not go to the White House on St Patrick’s Day. I heard one radio presenter express outrage at the notion that he would put Ireland’s economic interests ahead of human rights, as he understands them.

The very same presenter is constantly harping on about inequality, homelessness, and the depleted health service we have to endure. Surely he should recognise that if Enda does anything which results in Ireland’s economic interests being undermined, there will be even less money available to fund those vital services.

The fact is that economic activity generates the resources that funds social expenditure, healthcare, education, law and order, and public housing.

If Enda decided to snub Trump on St Patrick’s Day, I doubt the president would lose any sleep and it would spare him having to dispose of the bowl of shamrock. However, it might not help Ireland’s longer-term cause.

The opportunity to visit the centre of power in the largest economy in the world — and one that is vital to Ireland’s economic interests and prosperity — should not be spurned. To do so would be plain stupid. Mind you, I am cringing at the notion of our Taoiseach scolding Trump in public in order to placate the political opportunists at home.

However, while Trump is entitled to do everything that he is doing and to sign the executive orders that he is signing, he does need to be very careful on a number of fronts.

If he does start to dismantle the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which was signed in 1993 by Bill Clinton and which created free trade between the US, Mexico, and Canada, he will damage growth and cost jobs in all three countries. It would also result in higher prices for many consumer goods in the US, which is not something US consumers would appreciate.

However, the bigger issue is that, of the three parties to Nafta, Mexico is by far the must vulnerable economically and politically. Nafta has been good for Mexico and has helped create a more prosperous economy.

The danger is that if the fragile Mexican economy was to be thrown into the mire due to Trump’s trade policies, he could end up with a seriously unstable social and political entity south of his border. No wall could protect the US from such an eventuality.

The other significant potential problem for Trump is that his policies to date have seriously upset many of his Congressional colleagues in the Republican Party, particularly in the Senate.

This could have the implication that he might, or most probably, will find it difficult to push through other much more important parts of his agenda, particularly corporate tax reform, infrastructure investment, and fiscal stimulus in general.

On the other side of the Irish Sea, it was quite pathetic to see the British prime minister Theresa May cosy up to a man that has policies that are so diametrically opposed to the views she presented in her seminal January 17 speech on Brexit.

It just goes to show how desperate the UK political leadership is in relation to Brexit. Here’s hoping that Enda does not hold the hand of President Trump.


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