Colin Gannon shares his opinion of why the Taoiseach should not make the state visit to the US.
In 1961, then Irish Ambassador to the United States, Tommy Kiernan, presented John F. Kennedy with a bowl of shamrocks. It was an embodiment of decade-old bilateral relations and personally significant to Kennedy due to Irish heritage. Throughout the following decades this became a tradition, an annual diplomatic visit to visually convey the strong, healthy relationship that exists between the two nations and tangible proof that this relationship will continue to flourish.
A common thread throughout Irish history is migration (fleeing the Great Famine for example). The Irish diaspora is estimated at an astounding 80 million worldwide and according to the US census in 2008, 36 million Americans identified Irish as being their primary ethnicity. Visiting the United States and ceremoniously greeting Trump affront the iconic White House with a pitiful Waterford Crystal bowl full of the unluckiest shamrocks in the world, without publicly decrying and denouncing many of his policies, executive orders and actions is appeasing an administration which promotes discrimination, misogyny and misinformation.
Donald Trump has, with the help of a flawed democratic system, inept Republican party, corrupt Democratic National Committee (Wikileaks exposed how DNC had not shown impartiality to Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and instead railed against his campaign) and a generally misinformed, disillusioned and economically disenfranchised American populace, risen to become arguably the most powerful figurehead in the world. The disillusioned masses, largely less well-off and Caucasian, may have chosen a more straight-edged anti-establishment figure in Sanders had he defeated Clinton in the primaries. But we will never know.
Trump is a demagogue. His reactionary rhetoric demonised Muslims and minorities and his campaign was mired in unfathomable controversy. The kind of controversy would most certainly result in your average citizen losing their job. America has become his newest reality TV show with DJT starring as the ever-willing, asinine star. Loathed by many and adored by others. We must not become a willing spectator in this show and give tacit approval to such a poisonous administration.
Enda Kenny, publicly in the Dáil, has scrupulously condemned Trump’s policies amidst a backdrop of public outrage (almost 40,00 Irish citizens signing a petition outlining how a State visit to Trump is not representative of the Irish people) and through pressure from his fellow parliamentarians. In the UK, a younger, more eloquent Donald Trump has been defending his decision to allow Trump to visit the UK in an unprecedented state visit.
Boris Johnson rebuked many MP’s calls to block the state visit, citing the “special relationship” between the two countries, that must not be tarnished simply because they disapprove of him and condemn his actions. A complete refusal to accept Trump’s invitation, a blackout, would be no good for anyone. This would be naive and further encourage divisiveness. As un-open to criticism as Trump may seem, he is undoubtedly not worth hindering inter-state relations. If your best friend bullies the small, different kid at school you don’t tell your friend you can no longer visit his house, you go to his house and respectfully discuss and condemn his bullying.
It becomes a question of our elected government’s backbone and morality. Many of the systems failing Irish society and the social-economic and human right’s issues, which follow such flawed systems, are not challenged due to an acute political agenda. Instead of a bowl of shamrocks and an uneasy smile, he should perhaps make President Trump understand how the vast majority of Irish people feel about his decisions and how they deeply contravene with Irish values.
We must not normalise Trump or his administration.
Hermann Goring said during the Nuremburg Trials, “All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country”. If Kenny fails to publicly (not in “private discussions”) challenge Trump, especially his Islamaphobic migrant ban, he is not only failing in his obligations to best represent the Irish people and Irish values but he is also failing to memoralise the suffering of Irish migrants and immigrants throughout history and only he can live with that burden.