There has been a broadly negative reaction to an invitation issued by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to US president Donald Trump to visit Ireland. Protests opposing his visit are already being planned by left-wing parties.
Mr Kenny issued Mr Trump with an official invitation when the two leaders met in Washington DC on Thursday. The Taoiseach was further criticised for failing to raise concerns over some of the policies pursued by the president.
The Labour Party, the Green Party, People Before Profit and the Solidarity party (formerly Anti-Austerity Alliance) all said they would hold protests against any visit by Mr Trump.
Mr Trump had intended to visit Ireland during the election campaign last year to see his golf resort in Doonbeg, County Clare, but the trip did not proceed, possibly out of concern over expected protests.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin said Mr Kenny should have challenged Trump on his ban on immigrants or on the anti-gay rhetoric of vice president Mike Pence.
Mr Howlin said the Taoiseach had worn “the shamrock and the green tie, he smiled for the cameras”, but failed to reflect Irish values and had become a “supine supporter of Trumpism”.
“Ireland is an open and tolerant nation,” Mr Howlin said. “At the very least, we might have expected our Taoiseach to express such a sentiment to President Trump. But even this he could not bring himself to do.”
President Trump described Mr Kenny as his “new friend” and a “great guy” as the two attended the annual Speaker’s Lunch in the US Capitol to mark St Patrick’s Day.
Mr Trump said the bond between Ireland and the US during his presidency is “going to be closer than ever before”.
“The people of Ireland and the people of the United States have stuck together through good times and bad times,” he said. “Over many centuries we have built a bond that thrives, inspires and endures. And with us, it’s going to be closer than ever before, I can tell you that.”
SHAMROCK IN A BOWL
Mr Kenny later returned to the White House for the annual presentation of a bowl of shamrock to the president. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams also attended the annual St Patrick’s Day reception at the White House.
Mr Kenny confirmed he had invited Mr Trump to visit Ireland during his presidency, because in Ireland “invitations are always returned, and returned in kind.”
Mr Kenny also congratulated Mr Trump on his electoral victory. “You beat them all, whatever they say,” he said.
Mr Kenny said he had raised both the issue of legal immigration paths for Irish people, including the revival of a stalled proposal of a new E3 visa scheme, and the situation of undocumented Irish citizens living in the United States.
He said the president had been surprised at the number of undocumented Irish living in the country - said to be 50,000 - and had expected it to be much higher.
He also said he briefed US president Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan on the latest developments in the North.
“I gave the president a detailed outline of the outcome of the election in Northern Ireland, the fact that it is now a priority to put an executive that will provide a voice for Northern Ireland and that we have a clear agreement with the British government that there will be no return to a hard Border and no return to direct rule from London,” he said.
Speaking at a meeting with the Congressional Friends of Ireland on Capitol Hill earlier, Mr Adams briefed congressional leaders on the outcome of the recent Stormont Assembly election, negotiations currently taking place and the threat posed by Brexit.
He said the recent Six County election result had “transformed the political landscape”.
“Sinn Fein’s focus is on reaching agreement on the restoration of the political institutions,” he said.
“But it cannot be on the same basis as before. That is why the current talks are for us about the implementation of agreements previously made.
“It has been suggested that British direct rule could be imposed if there is no agreement. This would be an enormous act of bad faith by London and a reversal of the joint position set out by the two governments in 2006.”