The Taoiseach has faced harsh criticism for performing a U-turn in inviting US President Donald Trump to Ireland.
Leo Varadkar is to meet President Trump in the White House today as part of the annual St Patrick’s events and said an invitation to Ireland still stands.
The Taoiseach ruled out taking part in a round of golf on Mr Trump’s Doonbeg resort, but suggested he would bring him to the border area if the invitation is accepted.
This is in sharp contrast to his comments in February of last year, when Mr Varadkar insisted he would not invite Mr Trump, stating: “I’m not sure what purpose it would serve”. Liam Herrick, executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said it is difficult to see how a visit by Mr Trump could have a positive impact, given his “troubling” record on human rights and racism.
“In the US and internationally, his record is one of division and conflict, and against the values of human rights that underpin the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett described the decision to invite Mr Trump as a “U-turn of the worst kind”.
“No Irish Government should be giving a platform to a man who is so dangerous for the world. It is despicable,” he said.
Seaking in Washington, Mr Varadkar said former Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s invitation to Mr Trump stands.
“Donald Trump has invited me to Washington DC and he is going to invite me to his house. I think it is absolutely appropriate, it’s just normal hospitality, that when somebody invites you to their front room in their house, that you reciprocate with an invitation.
“I’m not into golf, so I won’t be playing a round at Doonbeg, but perhaps there will be an opportunity to potentially visit some of the Irish companies that invest in the US, and also as well perhaps to see the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
He said this had been something Mr Trump expressed an interest in when both men spoke on the phone some months ago.
“There have been no discussions about a visit, but the invitation stands. He has invited me as Taoiseach, prime minister of Ireland, to visit him in the White House and of course, I intend to reciprocate,” said Mr Varadkar.
Sinn Féin president Mary-Lou McDonald said a presidential visit would be “positive” as seeing the border at first hand “certainly makes it very real for people in terms of Brexit”.
Speaking in Washington, she said: “It’s a 300-mile border with multiple crossings and I think anybody seeing that border will understand that some of the fantastical ideas coming from the British government around frictionless trade or a frictionless border are simply a nonsense, so anybody to see that is a positive thing.
"I am not going to comment on a prospective itinerary for any visitor to the country, when I am Taoiseach, I might be able to answer that more accurately.”
She denied she has been snubbed by the White House after not being invited to the annual St Patrick’s events.
It has been reported that the reason she and DUP leader Arlene Foster have not been extended an invitation is because there is no Assembly up and running in Northern Ireland.
Ms McDonald said: “I don’t feel that I was snubbed. It was a matter for the White House who they invite as their guests.”
However, she said Gerry Adams, who has received an invite, should attend.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney is to announce today the commencement of direct flights between Dublin and China for the first time.
Initially, four Hainan flights per week will originate in Dublin. Two will be non-stop to Beijing while the other two will stop in Edinburgh to pick up additional passengers before going on to Beijing.
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