Thursday 27 April 2017

Kenny must go to White House and bring a big message from a small nation

Analysis

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Ignoring Donald Trump won't make him go away.

The US president has now proven himself to be not just an egomaniac but also a bully, in the oldest sense of the word.

His ban on people from some of the most troubled parts of the world travelling to the US is something that should resonate in Ireland.

Nobody needs a history lesson on how Irish migrants sailed what James Joyce described as a bowl of bitter tears to help make America great.

As a result of that legacy, we now have a standing invitation to visit the White House once a year - a 'special relationship' that no other country in the world is afforded.

In the good times, it has all been 'great craic', with Bill Clinton throwing lavish parties and Barack Obama joking about his own Irish ancestors in Moneygall.

What display Trump will put on is unclear but for the travelling Taoiseach, it cannot be business as usual.

There were calls last night for Enda Kenny to call the whole thing off - but that would achieve little.

We would be slamming the door on an opportunity to show what Ireland now stands for.

The country that fought its way back from economic collapse, and celebrated with scenes of unbridled joy when a referendum passed marriage equality, and one that works to maintain a fragile peace agreement that is quoted the world over.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said that if the Muslim ban remains in place, "Enda Kenny should not be boarding a plane to Washington in March".

"President Trump does not share our values. Indeed, he is openly hostile to them."

He warned a visit by the Taoiseach to the White House could "present Ireland as a supine supporter of Trumpism". The Green Party espoused similar views, and Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said the situation should be kept under "review".

For its part, Fianna Fáil's foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O'Brien argued that the Taoiseach should travel because "not talking to people serves no purpose".

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan indicated that the Government has no intention of blanking Trump.

"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," he said.

In truth, the symbolism of the Irish 'prime minister' not showing up to the White House on March 17 would be a major story here - but a blip on the international radar.

What would make a bigger impact is if Mr Kenny goes to the White House and, rather than blushing for the cameras, makes a real statement of intent.

He must stand beside the president, in full view of the media, and say Ireland does not respect his policies.

Mr Kenny must show the strength of character to tell the leader of the free world to stop curtailing freedoms.

It might seem clichéd to quote John F Kennedy but I'd suggest that the Taoiseach read his 1963 address to the Dáil before jetting off.

"In an age when 'history moves with the tramp of earthquake feet', in an age when a handful of men and nations have the power literally to devastate mankind, in an age when the needs of the developing nations are so large and staggering that even the richest nations often groan with the burden of assistance - in such an age, it may be asked, how can a nation as small as Ireland play much of a role on the world stage?" JFK asked.

He goes on to describe the virtues of "five feet high" nations, concluding: "The heroic deeds that thrill humanity through generations were the deeds of little nations fighting for their freedom. And, oh, yes, the salvation of mankind came through a little nation."

Perhaps instead of the bowl of shamrock, Mr Kenny could just give the incumbent a print-out of that speech, describing how Irish sons and daughters went to America "in a mixture of hope and agony".

Mr Kenny must use St Patrick's Day to tell the Irish story in defence of the defenceless.

Irish Independent

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