The uninvited US president would love a protest, so let’s ignore him

Trump will dismiss any opposition as petty spite, and tell the world that the true Irish loved him, writes Fergus Finlay

The uninvited US president would love a protest, so let’s ignore him

The Pest from the West is coming. Evelyn Cusack, Joanna Donnelly, we need you back at your posts.

You got us through the last big crisis, and you’ve had a quiet summer, with just a bit of drought to worry about. But there’s a big storm rising, and it’s time for our saviours to be back in front of the microphone.

We all remember the Beast from the East, don’t we? I know it seems like ages ago, because of the unbelievable summer we had, but the Beast from the East hit us as February turned into March.

Never in the history of Ireland did so many of us have to take evasive action for days on end, and there was a national shortage of white sliced pans that drove us all into a frenzy.

Well, the Pest from the West is on its way later this year, and it’s time, I reckon, to stock up on the sliced pans again.

I can only imagine Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s face, when his officials told him the other day that US president Donald Trump had decided to visit Ireland in November. The acronym FFS can’t have been far from his lips.

Having just come through a papal visit that had potential political disaster written all over it, and having handled it brilliantly, Varadkar surely must have thought this was the last thing he needed.

It’s not as if we sent for Trump. I know there’s a sort of ‘standing invitation’, originally issued by former taoiseach Enda Kenny, and repeated by Varadkar — any president of America is a friend of ours, kind of thing — but there are times when we all say “be sure to drop in for a cup of tea”, when we’re secretly hoping there won’t be a knock at the door. Now Trump’s decided to drop in.

And he’s not even telling us exactly when he’s coming. He’s going to France on November 11 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. He’s either going to drop in on us a day or so before that visit, or a day or so after.

To make matters even more bizarre, President, Michael D Higgins’s term expires on November 10, and the next president is due to be inaugurated on November 11.

If the Pest from the West arrives before the 11th, receiving him in the Aras could well be the last thing Michael D does. It could, on the other hand, become almost the first duty of the new president to deal with this visitor.

You can now expect every candidate for the Irish presidency (there seem to be about 40 of them so far) to be asked how they’re going to deal with Donald Trump on their first day in office.

So, the comb-over president is going to have an influence on our presidential election even before he lands on our shores.

The likelihood is that the Government will seek to ensure the Pest from the West doesn’t arrive until at least the inauguration is over, so that there’s no possibility he will invite himself to Dublin Castle on the big day.

But that does mean that, in the highly unlikely event that one of the others gets elected, the Donald is going to be meeting someone with as little expertise in international diplomacy as he has.

What about the rest of us? How should we react? Already, there’s talk of massive protest. The activists who flew a giant balloon of Trump over London have taken up an invitation to reinflate in Dublin.

Government ministers are talking about boycotting him and joining any protest on the street.

Well, here’s my suggestion. There’s only one way to get under the skin of this guy, to really annoy him, and that’s to ignore him. Completely, and totally.

You only have to look at his behaviour over the past weekend to see what a petty, small-minded man this Pest from the West is.

He wasn’t invited to be the centre of attention at John McCain’s funeral, after years of mocking him.

In McCain’s dying days, the president of America could have put aside his political differences and tried, at least, to make his peace.

It’s what most people do when they hear someone is dying a painful death. But not Trump.

The flag flew at half-mast over most American public buildings, in honour of one of the country’s most distinguished citizens, for a week.

The American flag files at half-mast at the White House (AP)
The American flag files at half-mast at the White House (AP)

Trump had the flag on the White House raised to its full height again after half a day, and only agreed to lower it again under pressure. As McCain lay in state, Trump went to play golf. And tweeted.

Over the weekend, it seemed as if he was tweeting every couple of minutes. All of his tweets were about himself.

Himself and black people who liked him. Himself and opinion polls that looked better than other opinion polls. Himself and fake news.

He was like a child in the corner — while the grown-ups were talking about serious stuff — and he was screaming: “Look at me. I’m over here and if you don’t pay attention to me, I’m going to scream and scream until you’re all really sorry.”

Much has been written about the narcissism at the heart of Donald Trump’s personality, that overwhelming need to be at the centre of attention.

If you’ve ever known a true narcissist, you’ll know only too well that they will do anything — no matter how cruel or heartless — to command attention. Trump shows all the signs of that.

He’ll enjoy all the extra attention if there’s a protest on the street. It won’t bother him if a few ministers refuse to pay respect.

He’ll dismiss any opposition as petty spite, and tell the world that the true Irish loved him.

The only thing he’ll hate is silence. So, that’s what we should give him.

If there’s a motorcade, it should speed through empty streets. If there’s a State reception, it should take place in an empty ballroom.

Protests against Trump at Davos earlier this year
Protests against Trump at Davos earlier this year

We shouldn’t boycott this visit. We should ignore it. We should stock up with sliced pans — and OK, a few cans, if you have to — and bunker down at home.

You’ll probably find that the US Secret Service will insist on most of the places he’s likely to go being cordoned off anyway, so your employer might be persuaded to treat the event as they all treated the Beast from the East.

Be safe, they told us then. Stay at home. Mind your loved ones, and we’ll all get back to normal when it has passed.

The Pest from the West will be the same. It’s going to be an ugly couple of days.

But our political masters will do whatever business they have to do to maintain an important relationship between our two countries.

As for the rest of us, we should just batten down the hatches. Stay warm, stay dry, stay indoors.

And, with any luck, the Pest from the West will blow away in a day or two.

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