'I would never criticise anybody for protesting against Trump visit' - Varadkar
The Taoiseach was caught off guard when asked if there are areas he agrees with Trump on, telling reporters: "I'm sure there are...let me think about that"
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he would not criticise anyone for taking part in a protest as Ireland prepares to host US president Donald Trump in the coming weeks.
Protests against the visit are expected to be organised once details of the visit - which has yet to be confirmed by the White House - but asked about potential demonstrations today Mr Varadkar said:
“Peaceful protest is part of a democracy and I would certainly never criticise anyone for taking part in a protest if that's the way they wish to express their views.”
Asked if they should be allowed protest near where he is meeting Trump he said the decision would be for the gardaí.
“None of that has been worked out and that's going to be a matter for the gardai who have to make those decisions based on security grounds," he said.
"But, as has been the case always in the past the President of the United States has a welcome in Ireland and I believe we should respect the office even if people have particular views about the current incumbent the links that exist between Ireland and America are very strong, they are about the economy and jobs, they are about citizenship, there are family links too and cultural links and we want to keep those links strong regardless of who is Taoiseach or President.”
The Taoiseach said we don't have official confirmation of a visit yet but there is protocol around these matters and protocol says that the announcement has to come from the White House rather than from here.
“A lot of people have been critical of President Trump, including me on occasion, on issues around climate for example, on his opposition to free trade, on the criticisms he has made of the European Union, and on issues such as women’s rights. I’ll have the opportunity, as I have in the past, to actually raise those issues with him in person but I understand that other people will wish to do so by means of protest and in a democracy protest is allowed and welcome.”
But the Fine Gael leader was caught of guard when asked if there were any policy issues on which he and the controversial Republican president agreed.
He said: “Emm, I’m sure there are... I’m absolutely sure there are. It's always the differences that spring to mind but let me think about that.”