Despite consternation and disbelief in Ireland at the result of the US Presidential election, political leaders including 26 County Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams were among those to congratulate Donald Trump this week on his election as US President.
It was no secret that Hillary Clinton had been strongly favoured by the Irish establishment to become America’s next leader after she and her husband played an active part in the peace process in the 1990s. She was viewed as a pair of safe hands by Irish and American power-brokers alike, and in contrast, her opponent appeared a suspect and cartoonish figure. Known largely for his appearances on reality television shows, Trump was reviled by Irish commentators as a misogynist, a racist, and a potential demagogue.
So it was a difficult u-turn for Irish politicians who were forced to adjust their outlook -- and not least for the Taoiseach, who had described Trump as “racist and dangerous” in the Dublin parliament just last May.
Commenting on the election of President Trump, Gerry Adams, who is currently visiting the US, said: “The people of the USA have spoken. Donald Trump had been elected as the 45th President of the USA. I congratulate him. The onus is on the President Elect to represent all the people of the USA and to play a positive and progressive role in world affairs.
“The Irish peace process has consistently had the support of both Republican and Democratic administrations and on Capitol Hill over the last two decades.
“Hillary Clinton has played a leadership role during this time as First Lady and Secretary of State. She has been a very good friend to Ireland. We must ensure that support will continue with the new administration through the next four years.”
Mr Adams and Mr Trump previously met in 1995 when Mr Adams visited New York following the IRA’s ceasefire. Among the events he is attending in the city is the naming of a pedestrian step street as “Easter Rising Way” later today [Saturday].
During his speech at a fundraising event for Friends of Sinn Fein earlier this week, Mr Adams made reference to the “division” within US society.
“This is a great country,” he said. It gave many of you and your families opportunities you were denied at home. Of course, like all human societies, there are many contradictions and divisions, conflicts and complexities,” Adams said.
He went on to say that one of Trump’s greatest challenges will be to “play a positive and progressive role in world affairs”.
“That includes Ireland,” he added.
Trump also met the late DUP leader Ian Paisley in 2007 to discuss buying a North Coast golf resort, but the deal never came off.
He owns a golf resort in County Clare which he referred to both as “perfecto” and “small potatoes” during the campaign. On a previous visit to his resort in May 2014, the Dublin government was accused of indulging the billionaire’s excesses when it bizarrely deployed a red carpet and a trio of young females to serenade his private jet on its arrival into Shannon Airport.
So it was no surprise when Kenny’s first telephone call to the Trump White House was hailed as a triumph of Irish diplomacy. The pair spoke by telephone for 10 minutes on Wednesday night, a Dublin government spokeswoman said, but did not directly address Trump’s expressed concerns over Ireland’s position as an effective tax haven for US corporations.
Trump invited Mr Kenny to the White House on St Patrick’s Day for the traditional bowl of shamrock ceremony. In turn, the Taoiseach is said to have congratulated the President-elect on his electoral success and both men committed to working together to the mutual benefit of Ireland and the United States.
In a softening of his rebuke from May, Mr Kenny said he would be happy to work with Mr Trump.
Weeks after making the comments, when asked if he would put that view of being ‘racist and dangerous’ in any future meeting, Mr Kenny added: “Certainly. I’d be very happy to.” But pressed again in the Dail hours after the US election result was announced, Mr Kenny had unsurprisingly flip-flopped.
“I’d be happy to deal with the president in a very constructive way as he has announced to the world that his administration will work to heal the wounds in America, will work to have the American people unite and form partnerships with like-minded countries for opportunities for everybody,” he said.
Kenny also congratulated Mike Pence, on his election as vice-president who he said is “a proud Irish American who spent many summers in Ireland as a child”.
“The government looks forward to working closely with our new colleagues in the White House,” he added.
Minister for Housing Simon Coveney on Thursday said the St Patrick’s Day invitation by Mr Trump was an important gesture and offered a reassurance to people that business between the Ireland and the United States would continue.
Mr Coveney said: “Of course there are a lot of people concerned. A lot of what was said during this presidential campaign was very bitter, nasty and concerned a lot of people. What we need to do now is judge the president-elect on his comments as president-elect.”
Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also expressed hope that the north’s long-standing relationship with the US would be strengthened during Mr Trump’s time at the White House.
Foster said she looked forward to working with his administration because of the “strong historical, economic and political ties” between the North and the USA.
“As our largest inward investor, the US plays a massive role in our economic progress,” she said.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he would “work constructively with President Trump” to “maintain and strengthen our well established and deeply valued relationship with the US”.
But SDLP leader Colum Eastwood expressed “deep disappointment” at Mr Trump’s victory and vowed to stand by his pre-election pledge not to attend any White House event under his presidency.
He said across the western world politics was facing a “dark and difficult moment”, and warned about the threat posed by the politics of “resentment, fear and unchallengeable untruthfulness”.