Sunday 25 August 2019

Niamh Horan: Why US President Donald Trump should experience a land of a thousand welcomes

US President Donald Trump. Picture: PA
US President Donald Trump. Picture: PA
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Boris Johnson is no fool. Although written off as the clown of British politics, the calculating politician is now the firm favourite to become Britain's next prime minister.

It is no surprise then that, ahead of President Donald Trump's visit to the UK and Ireland this week, the media are cooing over the fact that Johnson has gone one step further and won over the world's most-powerful man.

With his famous wit and charm, he has made a puissant ally in the US president, a man friends say, "picks up very quickly on whether people like him or not." Meanwhile, back in Ireland, some people are intent on making a dog's dinner of our welcome before he even arrives.

For a start, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and officials have refused to meet him at his hotel in Doonbeg, despite his personal request.

Too concerned with kowtowing to the PC brigade, the snub even caused the president's detractors in the US media to note that his meeting with our leaders "won't be a fancy affair" because, they scoffed - it will be "at the airport". Pretty toe-curling when you think about it.

And to add salt to the wound, protesters will be allowed to bring a Trump 'baby blimp' to Ireland to fly while the president visits.

Now I know the capabilities of the Irish Army are the equivalent to a child's pea shooter next to the might of America's military superpower, but if we had any sense we would dust off a tank and blow the nuisance straight out of the sky.

Because bad manners, immature demonstrations and cutting off our nose to spite our face, will not bring favours when we go cap in hand to President Trump. And mark my words - the day will come. Ireland is already trying to convince US authorities we are not a trade threat, after being placed on a watch list of nine nations that America regards as potential currency threats.

We have so many US companies located here, the last thing we want to do is provoke a backlash. Would it have hurt so much to go to the president's resort when talking about a trillion-dollar issue?

Meanwhile, the future of the Irish diaspora in the US is facing serious challenges. Attempts to secure the Irish E3 visa scheme is on a knife edge.

The programme, doggedly being pursued by TDs such as Mark Daly, will enable Irish citizens to live and work in the United States. Preferential treatment that every other country is looking for but none, bar Ireland, has a hope of getting.

And if that wasn't enough, our peace process is at a dangerous crossroads. Given that the US government made sure it happened 21 years ago - and Johnson wants to leave Europe, with or without a deal, we need the US administration on side to keep the agreement alive.

I laughed this week when it was reported that Trump would not be placing the Doonbeg Hotel on lockdown during his visit. Never a man to turn his nose up at a good business opportunity, he is insisting guests can have full access to the resort, which will be at full capacity when he and his beautiful wife, Melania, arrive.

Meanwhile, in the same week, Ireland passed over the opportunity to create 1,000 extra jobs via a US company owned by billionaire Time magazine owner Marc Benioff, because outdated planning laws would not allow two extra floors to a building.

The juxtaposing attitudes to business says everything about the difference between our two nations and their ability to grasp an opportunity when it lands on their door.

President Trump will be on our welcome mat soon. We should follow the lead of the village of Doonbeg, who have been experiencing a thriving economy and an influx of jobs and tourism since the US leader looked favourably on their community.

Let's not be ingrates, act for the sake of good will and good business and drape ourselves in American flags to extend him a Cead Mile Failte.

- Niamh Horan

Sunday Independent

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