'Donald Trump's visit to Ireland will definitely be controversial' - Simon Coveney
Donald Trump’s visit to Ireland will definitely be “controversial,” Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said.
The Tánaiste also repeated the Taoiseach’s blunt admission that the Government was “a little taken by surprise” by news of the US President’s visit a week ago. But he insisted that as the democratically-elected of the USA, President Trump will be welcome to Ireland in November.
“It will be controversial. Everything Donald Trump does these days is controversial. He is followed by an army of journalists and camera people,” Mr Coveney said.
The Tánaiste was also asked if he agreed with former Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s assertion that Mr Trump was “racist.” He clearly said he did not believe the US President was racist – but he repeatedly stressed that he disagreed with Mr Trump on many issues.
Speaking on the final day of the Fine Gael party’s pre-Dáil meeting in Galway, the Tánaiste said the Dublin Government had “got signals” days before the visit became publicly known.
“As the Taoiseach has admitted we were taken a little by surprise – but it’s not a huge surprise,” Mr Coveney said.
The Tánaiste said every US President since Ronald Reagan in 1984, had visited Ireland, with just one exception. He added that it was always expected that President Trump would visit at some stage during his term of office.
Mr Coveney stressed serious differences of opinion between the Irish Government and President Trump on key issues. These included climate change, migration, international trade tariffs, peace funding for things like education, and may other items.
The Minister said welcoming President Trump did not under any circumstances amount to endorsing his policies or views. “But some people seem to be suggesting we shouldn’t allow him come to Ireland at all. That’s crazy,” Mr Coveney added.
The Foreign Affairs Minister said there were 700 US companies in Ireland employing 170,000 people, and 100 Irish companies in the USA employing 100,000 people. He said 40 million US citizens claimed Irish descent and Irish leaders got a great welcome in Washington each St Patrick’s Day and on other occasions.
Mr Coveney also said he was now hopeful a reasonable EU-UK Brexit deal can be done by the October deadline or soon afterwards. He said that while big political divisions remained in London, there was a new determination to reach a workable compromise, including issues like the Irish Border.
The Foreign Affairs Minister also defended the Northern Ireland Minister, Karen Bradley, who frankly admitted that when she took the job she had no idea about realities, like Northern nationalists never voting for unionists, or vice versa.
Mr Coveney said Ms Bradley had very little experience of Northern Ireland issues when she took up the post. But she was a smart and hardworking politician with whom he had a good working relationship.