Sinn Féin runs for cover after its former friend Trump's 'Muslim' rant makes him politically toxic
Published 12/12/2015 | 02:30
What a difference two decades makes. When a picture emerged earlier this week of Donald Trump shaking hands with Gerry Adams at a 1995 Sinn Féin fundraiser in New York - shortly before the IRA ended its ceasefire with an enormous truck bomb in London's Docklands - it wasn't Mr Trump who was embarrassed, but Sinn Féin.
'An Phoblacht' quickly tried to brush off its Trump association like pigeon-droppings on a new suit, protesting that it was most unfair to link Sinn Féin today to Mr Trump and his disgraceful remarks about Muslims: "In fact, Donald Trump only attended the Essex House hotel event briefly, accompanying another guest."
The film footage of that day tells a different story. Back then, it was Mr Adams who was struggling for political respectability, and he was clearly delighted to have the billionaire businessman in the room. In order to showcase his famous guest, Mr Adams made a joke from the podium about playing a "Trump card", and stepped down to shake hands with an equally jovial Mr Trump.
At a time when John Major, then British prime minister, was publicly opposed to Mr Adams being given a US visa, Mr Trump was still prepared to welcome Mr Adams to New York personally.
As Mr Trump entered that gathering, he would have had to walk past a small, vocal group of protesters from Belfast, including those who had lost relatives to IRA beatings and bombs. With the bare minimum of research, Mr Trump would have known of the IRA's dark history since the early '70s - echoed in the actions of the loyalist paramilitaries - which included no-warning bombs in pubs and hotels, and a litany of sectarian murders.
Many of them were every bit as horrifying as the recent carnage that unfolded in San Bernardino. Mr Trump's response to that massacre, however - carried out by a radicalised Islamist married couple, resident in California - has been to call for an immediate halt to all Muslims entering the US, "until we figure out what the hell is going on".
The gulf between Mr Trump's positions on terrorism in 1995 and 2015 is staggering. Then, he warmly welcomed to the US the chief representative of a terrorist group that had attempted to blow up the British Cabinet. Now, he proposes to ban US entry for every single worldwide adherent of the religion to which the San Bernardino terrorists nominally belonged.
One can only speculate on how shocking that difference must appear to the majority of peaceable Muslim US citizens, many of whom have supplied intelligence on radicals within their midst. Yet Mr Trump's suggestion that America is effectively on a war footing with the entirety of Islam will certainly bring joy to Isil: that is the very game plan it is after.
Mr Trump's remarks may have strengthened his backing among his die-hard US supporters, but in Britain and Ireland, where he has extensive business interests, they have rendered him politically toxic.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, has stripped the "obnoxious and offensive" Mr Trump of his role as a Scotland global ambassador (her predecessor, Alex Salmond, was once an enthusiastic backer of his controversial £1bn Aberdeenshire golf course, until the pair fell out over wind farms).
There is a petition, which has become the most popular ever campaign on the British Government's website, to ban him from the UK, which would only allow Mr Trump to depict himself as a martyr to political correctness. In the Dáil, there has been retrospective embarrassment at the grossly lavish red carpet welcome to Mr Trump on his visit last year.
I have seen Donald Trump in the flesh only once, at the theatre in New York. At the end of the show, a huge, besuited man approached him with the words: "Mr Trump, my son would like to tell you how much he enjoyed your hotel."
The tiny boy beside him squeaked out his pre-packaged compliment, and the bouffant-haired Mr Trump magnanimously absorbed the accolade. He had the armour-plated confidence that goes with enormous wealth.
His latest outburst, however, has tested the limits even of extensive international sycophancy.
Still, I do hope that, when Mr Trump is next in Ireland, he doesn't happen to bump into his old acquaintance Gerry Adams. It would be so terribly embarrassing, this time round, if Gerry felt compelled to withhold his handshake. (© Daily Telegraph, London)