The Taoiseach has defended his decision to visit Donald Trump on St Patrick’s Day, despite opposition TDs claiming it would be an endorsement of his “horrendous, dangerous and racist agenda”.
Although Cabinet backed Enda Kenny’s annual trip to the White House, Transport Minister Shane Ross objected strongly to the visit given Mr Trump’s actions since entering office.
The issue of whether Mr Kenny should hand over the bowl of shamrock to Mr Trump dominated Dáil proceedings and caused heated debate yesterday.
Both Labour and the AAA-PBP believe the Taoiseach should not travel for the annual meeting which was described as a “happy-clappy shamrockery event” by Labour leader Brendan Howlin.
However, reacting to AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger, Mr Kenny said the group were raising it for “populist” reasons.
“I intend to speak directly to the American president in the White House, I intend to speak directly to the vice president and to the speaker of the House,” Mr Kenny said.
“If Deputy Coppinger thinks that Ireland, on St Patrick’s Day or in St Patrick’s week, should abandon those Irish-Americans, should abandon those 50,000 undocumented brothers and sisters of her own who are in the United States who want a path to legitimate citizenship to work in the United States, I, for one, will not leave them isolated and alone at a time of considerable concern for them.”
Fianna Fáil said it is important that relations be maintained between both countries.
Speaking in the Dáil, Micheál Martin said: “I believe the Taoiseach should proceed with his visit to the United States. It is important in terms of the historical relationship. It is not just about a bowl of shamrock.”
Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who tabled an urgent Dáil question on the issue of US pre-clearance at Irish airports, said President Trump’s actions since taking up office have been “very unsettling”.
Mr Howlin said he had given the issue of the traditional St Patrick’s Day visit “a lot of consideration” but added that he felt it would not be right to travel as “a matter of principle”.
“It’s not business as usual. This is an administration now whose views on everything from climate change, his attitude to women, his views on disability, is fundamentally an anathema to the Irish people, that we need to make a stand on that.”
Describing it as a “happy-clappy shamrockery event that has no political content but has enormous emotional content” he said “it would be perceived by many as a formal endorsement of a policy position that would jar with the Irish people”.
But Mr Howlin added that he would not oppose the visit if it was changed to a formal political meeting with a long press conference afterward.
The AAA-PBP are completely opposed to the visit.
Richard Boyd-Barrett said: “[President Trump is] riding roughshod over the most basic tenants of human rights... and is basically putting two fingers up to human decency... The Taoiseach of this country cannot in any way legitimise or endorse this horrendous, dangerous and racist agenda.”