Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has risked provoking the anger of US president Donald Trump after insisting he does not have the capabilities shown by previous US leaders to help resolve the Northern Ireland political stand-off.
Mr Varadkar said the reality is Mr Trump’s “I win and you lose” tactics would not be useful in addressing the year-old Stormont stalemate, despite repeated US presidential involvement in past negotiations and Mr Trump’s steadfast belief in his deal-making skills.
DUP leader Arlene Foster used her New Year’s message to demand London appoint “direct-rule ministers” if talks fail to progress in the coming weeks.
More than two decades after former US president Bill Clinton’s Belfast speech helped cut a peace deal, Mr Varadkar said Mr Trump has “enormous talents and abilities”.
However, he said Mr Trump’s general approach and the tactics he outlined in his 1987 book The Art of the Deal would be deeply damaging to the province.
Asked if he would request Mr Trump’s help in resolving the Northern Ireland stalemate at their White House meeting on St Patrick’s Day, given his experience of deal-making, Mr Varadkar said:
“I have read The Art of the Deal and the basic concept behind that is a good deal is when I win and you lose. That’s not going to work in Northern Ireland.
“So while President Trump has many enormous talents and abilities, I don’t think bringing about peace in Northern Ireland would be his skillset. But certainly we are always open to assistance from the US.”
The comment is in contrast to Mr Trump’s own view of how his business deal-cutting skills can be used in diplomacy during his successful 2016 election.
Such claims have been ridiculed by his detractors who cite numerous examples, including his threatened nuclear war with North Korea after calling Kim Jong-un “little rocket man”; his failure to convince Mexico to pay for his border wall; his public snubbing by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and his inability to ensure key legislation passes through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Senate.
The request for Mr Trump not to help resolve the Northern Ireland stalemate also jars with the specific request made in the mid-1990s for then US president Bill Clinton to intervene, and former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s keen interest while US secretary of state.
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