Varadkar: I will invite Donald Trump to visit Ireland and congratulate him on emulating Irish tax system
Mr Varadkar set to meet the US President on Thursday
TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said he will invite Donald Trump to Ireland when he meets the US President - and will congratulate him on emulating Ireland's tax system.
In February of last year - when he was social protection minister and an invitation was first mooted - Mr Varadkar insisted he wouldn't invite Mr Trump if it was his decision, and said he wasn't sure what purpose an invite would serve.
But speaking in Washington today, the Taoiseach confirmed that he will talk to Mr Trump about a visit during their bilateral meeting tomorrow morning
"The invitation that Taoiseach Enda Kenny made to Donald Trump (last year) stands," he said.
"Donald Trump has invited me to Washington DC. He has invited me to his house and I think it is just normal hospitality that when someone invites you their house and their country that you reciprocate the invitation.
"I'm not into golf so I won't be playing golf with him if he comes to Doonbeg but perhaps it will be an opportunity for him to potentially visit some of the Irish companies that invest in the US."
He also indicated that he felt the US President would be interested in visiting the border region having spoke to him about it during a brief phonecall shortly after Mr Varadkar became Taoiseach.
"I know that's something he expressed an interest in when we spoke on the phone some months ago. He was very interested in that," Mr Varadkar said.
The Taoiseach said there has been no indication from the White House on whether Mr Trump plans to take up the existing offer. Mr Trump visited California - the most populous state in the United States - for the first time as President only this week, some 14 months since he was inaugurated.
Mr Varadkar was speaking after meeting with the US Chamber of Commerce - the organisation that represents American employers and American industry - on Wednesday.
#HaveYourSay: Should Donald Trump be invited to Ireland?
The Irish delegation had a round table discussion with major firms investing in Ireland including Allergen, Intel, and Boeing, and with some financial institutions who are moving to Ireland because of Brexit, including Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.
And he said it was very positive - with no indication that changes in America's tax and tariff rules would impact on their plans for Ireland.
"No, actually, I was very encouraged, every company around the table said that they continue to be committed to Ireland and if anything they would be intensifying their relationship with Ireland and pursuing further investment into the future," the Taoiseach said.
He said Ireland's corporation tax remains lower than that in the US, but added that the firms had also highlighted the talent pool in Ireland and its membership of the EU as reasons to invest in Ireland, especially with Brexit looming.
Mr Trump has, in the past, specifically named Ireland when he complained about American jobs and investment going overseas, and praised Apple when it announced it would be bringing some roles back to the US.
But Mr Varadkar said the area of tax was one he is keen to focus on when he meets the US President. American firms employ 150,000 people in Ireland.
"I think what President Trump has done in many ways is emulated our tax policy, decided that it makes sense to have lower tax for business and it makes sense to tax companies on the money they make in your country rather than trying to tax them on money they make in other parts of the world," he said.
"So, if anything, I'll be congratulating him on the fact that he's successfully changed American tax laws and brought them more into line with ours. I'm not going to criticise him for going a long way towards the tax system we have in Ireland which I think is going to benefit America and benefit Ireland too."
The Taoiseach will also meet Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday, but is due to have breakfast at his residence on Friday.
Mike Pence has long been criticised for his opposition to gay rights and rumoured support of conversion therapy – a discredited practice that proponents claim can make gay people straight.
The Taoiseach was asked if he will raise the issue.
"I'm told Vice President Pence is not a supporter of conversion therapy even though some people have alleged he is," he said.
"But I imagine if I have the opportunity - I'm going to meet him over breakfast - so if I have the opportunity I'll certainly be mentioning the wider issue of equal rights and freedoms for LGBT."
Veteran Republican Peter King is due to be honoured at the Ireland Funds dinner on Wednesday night - and has been vocal on opposition to gay marriage and a strong supporter of the controversial Muslim travel ban.
"I attend meetings and events I don't 100pc agree with all the time, Mr Varadkar said. "I even form coalitions with people I don't agree with some times. So if I was uncomfortable with people who don't agree with me on every issue I would be in a constant state of discomfort but I can assure you I am not," he said.
"But bear in mind, above all things Peter King has been a very good friend to Ireland and we need friends in this place and that overrides difference we may have over other issues."