US ambassador appointment a ‘priority’, says Taoiseach

The Taoiseach will push US president Donald Trump to appoint a new ambassador to Ireland when he meets him in Washington this week.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Tom Wright after giving a Foreign Policy speech at the Brookings Institute in Washington DC. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Leo Varadkar has also said that Ireland can act as a bridge between the US and the EU to prevent a trade war.

He said tariffs on goods such as aluminium, blue jeans, whiskey and steel “isn’t a policy that anyone is going to gain from” and will be stressing this when he meets President Donald Trump later this week.

Speaking after he arrived in Washington as part of his St Patrick’s Day trip to the US, Mr Varadkar said he would raise the fact that the US ambassador position in Dublin has been vacant for more than a year.

However, Edward F Crawford, a 79-year-old billionaire with roots in Co Cork, has been tipped to be named the next ambassador and it has been rumoured that President Trump may even make the announcement during the St Patrick’s Day events.

Mr Varadkar said: “We have an acting ambassador in Dublin who is doing a very good job.

“We would like to see an appointment and I’m sure that will be something that will be discussed on Thursday in the Oval Office.”

Asked whether the US should send a special envoy to Northern Ireland given the deadlock between Sinn Féin and the DUP in getting the Assembly back up and running, Mr Varadkar said: “The priority for us would be having a US ambassador appointed.”

On the issue of trade, Mr Varadkar warned that there is a danger America and Europe may “drift apart” due to growing divisions.

I would hope that both sides would pull back from a trade war.

Mr Varadkar is due to meet President Trump in the White House tomorrow where he is expected to bring up the threat of a trade war between the EU and US.

Mr Trump announced a 25% import tariff on steel and 10% on aluminium which has prompted fears of a trade war.

The EU has threatened retaliatory tariffs on US goods, including bourbon and jeans.

Speaking at the Brookings Institute, Mr Varadkar said: “For years, this relationship helped provide a bridge between the EU and the United States. 

"I fear that there is a danger that the EU and the United States may drift apart due to growing divisions on trade, tax, climate change and many other areas.

“Such a development would not be in the interests of the people on either side of the Atlantic.

"Ireland can and is willing to act as a bridge between the US and the EU to interpret one to the other and to help ensure that positive and constructive relations are maintained and developed,” he said.

The Taoiseach will today take part in a roundtable discussion with the US Chamber of Commerce and will attend the Ireland Funds dinner tonight.

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