Tuesday 30 May 2017

'White House St Patrick's Day visit important for Ireland,' says Kenny amid calls to cancel trip

The Fine Gael leader is facing calls to cancel the visit due to Trump's executive orders restricting immigration

Calls are mounting for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to cancel his upcoming visit to the White House ahead of St Patrick's Day. Photo: Damien Eagers
Calls are mounting for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to cancel his upcoming visit to the White House ahead of St Patrick's Day. Photo: Damien Eagers
U.S. President Donald Trump signs executive orders in the Hall of Heroes at the Department of Defense on January 27, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. Trump signed two orders calling for the "great rebuilding" of the nation's military and the "extreme vetting" of visa seekers from terror-plagued countries. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

Amy Mulvaneyand Ryan Nugent

A spokesperson for Enda Kenny has confirmed that the Taoiseach will travel to the US to meet with President Donald Trump for the annual St Patrick's Day visit, despite calls to cancel the trip.

Calls have been mounting for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to cancel his upcoming St Patrick's Day visit to the White House following President Donald Trump's "extreme vetting" order.

A spokesperson for Mr Kenny said that the Taoiseach will travel to the US "in order to maintain the historically strong links between the Irish and American peoples."

"In order to maintain the historically strong links between the Irish and American peoples it is important that the Taoiseach continues to engage with the US President and his administration in Washington around the events of St. Patrick's Day."

U.S. President Donald Trump signs executive orders in the Hall of Heroes at the Department of Defense on January 27, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. Trump signed two orders calling for the
U.S. President Donald Trump signs executive orders in the Hall of Heroes at the Department of Defense on January 27, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. Trump signed two orders calling for the "great rebuilding" of the nation's military and the "extreme vetting" of visa seekers from terror-plagued countries. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

"Doing so allows the Taoiseach to outline, in person, his Governments views on a range of issues, including business and economic ties, immigration and other matters of common interest. He will continue to act in the interests of Irish people and to that end he will raise these matters again this year."

Labour Leader Brendan Howlin called on the Taoiseach on Saturday to confirm that he will not visit the White House on St Patrick’s Day as President Trump "does not share" Irish values.

"For decades, Irish Governments have been able to enjoy significant access to senior US politicians in the days around St Patrick’s Day. This has allowed us to raise issues that matter to Ireland, and to Irish people in the US," he said in a statement.

"President Trump does not share our values. Indeed, he is openly hostile to them. He and his team have made clear that he is unwilling to hear, or even listen to discordant voices."

#HaveYourSay: Should Enda Kenny now cancel his St Patrick's Day meeting with Donald Trump?

The new US President has kept his election campaign promise and moved to ban entry of refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries into the US. Should Taoiseach Enda Kenny cancel his US visit this St Patrick's Day?

Mr Howlin said that by visiting the White House, Mr Kenny would be presenting Ireland as a "supporter of Trumpism" and that "such a presentation would be humiliating to the vast majority of Irish people who stand opposed to the policies being implemented by President Trump."

"Put plainly, if the Muslim ban remains in place, Enda Kenny should not be boarding a plane to Washington in March. And our Government should be working might and mane to make sure that these policies are not enforced on Irish soil."

Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said that the Taoiseach should go ahead with the annual visit to the White House, but "it can’t just be smiles and shamrocks."

Mr Varadkar said that it’s important for Ireland to "engage with the new administration."

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan warned today that Trump’s order to ban travellers and refugees from seven Muslim countries gaining entry into the US will have "far-reaching implications."

"While US immigration policy is a matter for the US authorities, it is clear that the most recent decisions could have far-reaching implications - both on humanitarian grounds and on relations between the US and the global Muslim community."

"Accordingly, I share the concerns of other EU partners regarding this most recent development," Mr Flanagan said.

He will travel to Washington to meet with officials there next week and has pledged to discuss immigration.

The Minister also defended Mr Kenny's decision to attend the White House in March.

"I believe it's very important that the Taoiseach's visit on St Patrick's Day goes ahead. He was specifically invited very soon after the election by president-elect Trump," he said.

"I believe in dialogue, I believe in discussion, walking away from an invitation, to my mind, is not the best way of dealing with international affairs and public issues. I strongly believe that the Taoiseach's visit should go ahead.

"There are matters of great importance between Ireland and America. The unique relationship over generations, it's important that continues and I look forward to the Taoiseach engaging in a very successful visit on St Patrick's Day.

"I have no doubt that the issues will be raised by the Taoiseach, there are many issues in relation to Irish-American affairs, I believe it will be a very important meeting and the Taoiseach will be fully engaged at that opportunity in March. I believe any postponement or any change in respect of those plans will in fact be detrimental to the great relationship between Ireland and America," he added.

An online petition set up to call on Mr Kenny to cancel the visit has received over 11,000 signatures within 24 hours.

The order, which has been denounced by civil rights groups as discriminatory, bars the entry of foreign nationals from certain countries for 90 days. While no countries are specifically named in the order, it refers to a statute that would apply to seven Muslim-majority nations: Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq and a 120-day suspension of the US refugee programme.

Travellers from those nations were either barred from getting on their flights or detained at US airports after they landed, including tourists, foreign students and people trying to visit friends and family.

Protests broke out at several US airports where travellers were being held, including a gathering of several hundred people outside San Francisco's main airport and a raucous demonstration of at least 2,000 people at New York's Kennedy International Airport.

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