Wednesday 24 January 2018

Government sees Ryan as a 'strong ally' in Trump's America

Congressman Paul Ryan. Photo: Getty
Congressman Paul Ryan. Photo: Getty
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Powerful Irish-American Congressman Paul Ryan will be a strong ally as the Government grapples with how to approach the new Trump administration, ministers believe.

Amid fears that President Donald Trump's crackdown on immigration to the US will impact on the undocumented Irish, Mr Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives, is seen as sympathetic to Ireland. But the Government faces a challenging course as it attempts to navigate its relationship with a Trump administration which has already fallen out with allies such as Australia and Mexico.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan spoke of the need for Ireland to renew links with the Republican Party prior to his trip to Washington DC last week.

He met Mr Ryan, who he described as "one of the most influential politicians on Capitol Hill".

Mr Flanagan said he has had several discussions with Mr Ryan about Ireland's concerns and priorities.

"I believe he will use his significant influence to help advance some of our priorities in this Congress," he added.

The Wisconsin Congressman, who was the Republican candidate for vice-president in 2012, tweeted a photograph of his meeting with Mr Flanagan and spoke of his "great pride" in his Irish roots.

Former foreign affairs committee chairman Pat Breen met Mr Ryan on several occasions and said "he is a very strong ally".

The junior jobs minister expressed his confidence that Taoiseach Enda Kenny would manage what could be a tricky relationship with the Trump administration. He added: "I think with the help of Paul Ryan - who's the third most powerful person now in the Trump administration after Mike Pence - that relationship will settle and blossom."

The Taoiseach has faced calls - including from Independent minister Shane Ross - not to go to the White House for St Patrick's Day amid Trump's ban on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Enda Kenny disagrees with the policy and has said he will raise the matter when he meets the US president. But he defended his plan to attend the traditional festivities as an opportunity to raise issues of importance to Ireland.

Mr Flanagan said he highlighted concern over Trump's executive order on immigration and its "damaging consequences in humanitarian terms" during his meetings with senior US politicians. He said it was "far more valuable" to engage with the administration than to "indulge in populist megaphone diplomacy".

Mr Kenny said he was considering inviting Trump to Ireland, a prospect Labour leader Brendan Howlin criticised as "beyond the pale" while the Muslim ban remained in place. Mr Flanagan didn't respond directly when asked if Mr Trump should be invited, but said: "Most American presidents in the last 50 years have been invited to Ireland".

Separately, Independent Alliance minister Finian McGrath denied the group was divided over Trump. He told RTE that while he, Sean Canney and Kevin 'Boxer' Moran believed the Taoiseach should go to the White House, they had agreed to differ with Mr Ross and John Halligan on the issue.

He said: "The overall view of the Independent Alliance is we're very critical of Trump."

Sunday Independent

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