Saturday 19 October 2019

Ministers to lead protests at Trump's Ireland visit

McGrath and Halligan plan to demonstrate against 'egotistical and arrogant' US president

John Halligan ‘Trump is dangerous and divisive’. Picture: Frank McGrath
John Halligan ‘Trump is dangerous and divisive’. Picture: Frank McGrath
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Two Government ministers are planning to take part in public demonstrations against US President Donald Trump's State visit to Ireland in November, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Cabinet Minister Finian McGrath and Minister of State John Halligan said yesterday they would protest on the streets with other demonstrators when Mr Trump arrives in the country for the first time since being elected president.

The move by the Independent Alliance ministers could cause a major diplomatic headache for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ahead of Mr Trump's arrival. It is a highly unusual move for two Government ministers to publicly protest against a State visit while serving in office.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr McGrath said Mr Trump was "wrecking the planet" and insisted he would "not roll out the red carpet" for the US President. "I firmly believe Mr Trump's policies, both domestic and international, are causing major problems in the world especially around equality and immigration," he said.

Mr McGrath confirmed he would join the protest and said he intended to raise concerns with the Taoiseach at this week's Cabinet meeting.

Mr Halligan said he understood Mr Varadkar would have to meet the US President but said he would also be protesting. "I think he is egotistical, I think he is arrogant, I think he is anti-woman, he's anti-LGBT, he's dangerous and divisive," Mr Halligan told the Sunday Independent.

"Ireland is a moderate and compassionate society and we all need to show our displeasure," he added.

Within hours of the White House announcing Mr Trump's State visit to Ireland, Opposition politicians began organising demonstrations.

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan called on people to gather on College Green in Dublin city centre on November 10 when Mr Trump is expected to arrive.

"Donald Trump's administration champions policies that are destroying our planet, destabilising international order, and reaching new political depths by appealing to racism, misogyny, xenophobia and hatred," he said.

"These policies do not reflect the Irish people's values - we need to show him and the world that this is not normal," he added.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said Ireland "will not welcome" Mr Trump because of his "record of discrimination, sexism and lies". He urged people to protest against the visit.

Mr Howlin also noted that the Taoiseach had not personally announced that Mr Trump would be visiting Ireland.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett described Mr Trump as a "promoter of hatred, war and environmental destruction" and also urged people to take part in demonstrations against the visits.

"He has stirred up filthy racism against migrants, Muslims and other minorities," he said.

"He has encouraged the growth of openly fascist and far-right parties across the world. He has encouraged and legitimised sexism and homophobia."

President Trump is expected to arrive in Dublin after taking part in commemorations in France marking the centenary of the ending of World War I. He will attend a number of events in Dublin before visiting his golf resort in Doonbeg, Co Clare.

Clare-based Minister of State Pat Breen said the local community was "very positive" about Mr Trump's visit. "If you like him or not, the reality is he's the [American] president and this is more than about Donald Trump, it's about the American people and the relationship they have with Ireland," he said.

After the visit was announced by the White House, Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the "US President is always welcome in Ireland".

"Our two countries have such strong historic, economic, cultural and family ties. Maintaining those connections is always a top priority," he wrote on Twitter.

However, less than an hour later, Mr Coveney criticised Mr Trump's decision to stop providing aid to the UN's Palestinian refugee programme.

He said the "shocking decision" would make it more difficult to achieve peace in the region.

Sunday Independent

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