Wednesday 20 March 2019

Comment: Trump's cancelled visit marks a new low in US-Irish relations

Relations between Ireland and the US have been markedly more strained since Trump became president
Relations between Ireland and the US have been markedly more strained since Trump became president
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The cancellation of a planned visit to Ireland by Donald Trump marks something of a new low in US-Irish relations.

While there will be many in Government buildings stifling a sigh of relief that the controversial visit has been pulled and the diplomatic headache avoided, it will be a brief reprieve because the cancellation brings with it a new raft of questions for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s government.

The decision to cancel the short trip has seemingly caught Irish officials as much off guard as the initial confirmation that Trump had plans to stop off here did.

Just last week Mr Varadkar admitted the visit came “out of the blue” and on top of that news of the visit emerged from the White House before the well-oiled wheels of the Merrion Street press machine could kick in.

Again today it seems that there is surprise in Government circles.

The few short weeks the trip was on the cards also caused its own domestic problems; causing splits at the Cabinet table and sparking calls for protests against the visit and Trump administration policies.

Amid criticism government ministers reiterated the need to respect the office of the US president but the ad-hoc manner in which the abandoned visit has played out could point to a lack of mutual respect.

Relations between Ireland and the US have been markedly more strained since the inauguration of the reality star turned politician.

His thinly veiled (sometimes not veiled at all) swipes at the low corporate tax rate which has long attracted US companies to Ireland and his moves to mirror it have caused consternation in the business community here.

The administration’s protracted delay in appointing a special envoy to Northern Ireland has also been criticised and comes at a time when the principles of the Good Friday Agreement are being fiercely guarded in the face of Brexit. Similarly it seems there is no great urgency to appoint a US ambassador to Ireland.

The US leader’s comments on Brexit have shown that he has a vastly different perspective on Anglo-Irish relations than his predecessors. Meanwhile his disdain for the European Union is in sharp contrast with Mr Varadkar’s public commitment to becoming ever more central in the bloc.

Stateside the issue of the illegal Irish hasn't garnered the attention the government would have hoped. Earlier this year Mr Varadkar said his US counterpart was open to finding a solution but thus far none has been forthcoming, adding to the worries of the Irish community in the US in the current climate.

All in all the visit in November would have proved a sizeable headache for the Government but there was certainly a lot to talk about.

Trump has long hinted at a visit to Ireland but will he become the only president since Reagan not to make the trip to Dublin? And what will that say about the plans to “renew the deep and historic ties between our two nations”?

Online Editors

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