Bronwyn O'Neill examines the history behind the shamrock presentation to the US President.
Every year our Taoiseach visits the American president on St Patricks Day, a tradition that dates back to the 1950s.
Although some people may see the tradition as an embarrassment to stereotype the Irish nation with shamrocks and the likes, there has been such fierce opposition until this year. Trump has now been elected president, his policies and his campaign was marred with racist, sexist and xenophobic comments (although, according to our Taoiseach, you can say racist things and not be a racist.)
There can be no defence of Trump’s words or actions since he entered politics and it is easy to see why people are unhappy with Kenny visiting this man. In an ideal world, we would rest easy, knowing we did not need to send someone over for this silly tradition. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be Trump as president, but that is neither here nor there.
We simply do not live in a perfect world; instead we live in a world where even the smallest action would have huge consequences. Trump tweets about SNL because they poke fun at him, he accused the Obama administration of spying on his campaign and he went on a rant about Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson’s relationship.
Now imagine if you will Trump’s reaction if Ireland refuse to send a representative over to present him with shamrocks. Imagine the tweets! Donald Trump has 16 million Twitter followers, that’s four times the amount of the Irish population! Many of these followers are not US citizens I realise, but I still think that if Trump were to tweet about Kenny not giving shamrocks we would be the ones losing out.
We would surely lose tourism over it. For some this may seem like a stretch, but look what Trump says and how his followers believe and mindlessly agree with him. If Trump hates Ireland then a huge amount of his supporters will follow suit. Our economy could suffer just because we stood up for ourselves.
The first time shamrocks were presented to the President of the US, it was by the Irish ambassador in an attempt to strength Ireland’s damaged relationship with America after the World Wars, as the government followed a policy of neutrality throughout both wars. To stop the tradition would ultimately damage the relationship between our two countries. As we all know, there are dozens of American companies in Ireland, although Trump has already threatened to change that, cutting ties like this would cause more damage as Trump may over react and demand American companies leave Ireland. Once again this may seem like a push, but unfortunately anything is possible with Trump.
This may seem like we are appeasing Trump and repeating historic mistakes, but presenting Trump with a bowl of plants (as simple as it may sound) is something Ireland, as a small nation, has to do. I am not holding my breath that Trump will miraculously become a fair and kind president. However, I think for now we are in no position to start a Trump tantrum, a Trumptrum if you will.
We should make it known we do not support Trump but we cannot simply cut ties with America. Kenny can still present the shamrocks to Trump without agreeing with everything he says. I hope Kenny uses his time wisely in America to talk to Trump rather than use it as a photo opportunity and a holiday.