A former US presidential election candidate has set up a petition calling on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to boycott the traditional White House St Patrick’s Day meeting with Donald Trump.
Former Maryland governor and Irish-American Democrat Martin O’Malley, who competed with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democrat nomination, made the demand as he said “now is not the time to be giving bowls of shamrock to white supremacists with Irish surnames”.
As part of the annual St Patrick’s Day trade mission to the US, Mr Kenny will meet US president Donald Trump at the White House on March 16.
While the event is a long-standing tradition to highlight the close ties between both countries, it has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks due to Trump’s deeply controversial immigration and economic policies, including this week’s decision to set up a group specifically focused on the victims of crimes by illegal immigrants.
In response to an Irish petition calling for the event to be cancelled in protest, Mr Kenny reiterated the need to attend.
However, a petition set up by Mr O’Malley in recent days already has the backing of tens of thousands of US and Irish citizens. Speaking on RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland programme, Mr O’Malley, who has close family ties to counties Mayo and Galway, said the image of Mr Kenny meeting Trump would send out the wrong message about Ireland.
Saying the annual meeting should be cancelled, he said the Taoiseach must stand up for “human decency” and “truth”.
“Now is not a time to be giving bowls of shamrock and tricolour lapel pins to white supremacists with Irish surnames”, he said in a reference to Trump’s controversial advisor and former Breitbart publisher, Steve Bannon.
“This guy [Mr Trump] is the very embodiment of the very sort of know-nothing white supremacist our great-grandparents, who emigrated from Ireland, had to confront.
It’s shameful that any Irish-American politician with any awareness of history would condone this guy by drinking green beers with him and toasting a bowl of shamrocks.
Not only the Irish Taoiseach, but also Irish-American members of Congress should not show up and not condone the anti-immigrant rhetoric Donald Trump has brought to the White House,” he said.
Saying the “enduring symbol” of the US should be the Statue of Liberty and not “barbed-wire fences”, he said what is happening in his country is wrong, adding:
“When this [ Trump’s immigration policies] happens, the only thing that’s needed for success is for good people not to stand up”, he said.
Despite Mr O Malley’s call, Mr Kenny is still set to attend the annual White House event with Trump later this month.
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