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Tuesday 12 December 2017

We've no choice but to build relationship with Trump, says Flanagan

US visit: Charlie Flanagan Photo: Tom Burke
US visit: Charlie Flanagan Photo: Tom Burke

Kevin Doyle and Alan O'Keeffe

Ireland must "build relationships" with Donald Trump's key decision makers if there is to be any breakthrough for the undocumented in the US, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has said.

After meeting with Mr Trump's National Security Adviser, General Michael Flynn, and his deputy, KT McFarland, at the White House, the minister said he had "sensitised" them to the mood of the Irish people.

"I directly conveyed to General Flynn the concern expressed in Ireland, and indeed, across the EU, at the most recent Executive Orders on immigration," Mr Flanagan told the AGM of the Irish Network Washington last night.

"In response, General Flynn outlined the rationale for this order while I pointed out its damaging consequences in humanitarian terms, as well as for the international reputation of the United States."

Mr Flynn is among the president's most controversial appointments. He's known for being combative and has a history of making provocative statements about Islam.

Various US media organisations have also criticised him for spreading misinformation, known as 'Flynn Facts' when he served as assistant director of national intelligence.

However, Mr Flanagan stressed his purpose in Washington was to engage with the White House and members of Congress.

"The political context in Washington may have changed, but the Irish Government's objectives remain constant - achieve some relief for the undocumented and find some legislative pathway for legal immigration," he said.

"There has been much written and said about the different tone and style of this new administration.

"But I want to emphasise that the unique relationship that exists between Ireland and the United States is as strong as ever.

"Whether one looks at the economic, political, cultural, or any other manifestation of the relationship, one can see the real depth of the ties that bind our two nations together."

Mr Flanagan has also met with senators Chuck Schumer, Pat Leahy, Dick Durbin, Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republic Speaker Paul Ryan.

Meanwhile, at home, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has described President Trump's ban on refugees entering the US as "extraordinarily disappointing" and "morally, totally questionable".

"We've never needed an international response to refugees more than the world needs it at present," she said.

"So in that context, what's happened in America is extraordinarily disappointing."

The Tánaiste was deeply concerned about the complete ban on refugees "in a country that has always been so welcoming of immigrants, including Irish immigrants".

"It's been there in our hour of need and you'd like to think it would be there in the hour of need of so many refugees internationally," she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said the ban would be challenged in the US courts.

Former president Mary Robinson said the new US president was a "bully".

Ms Robinson, who is a member of independent global leaders group The Elders, said they were extremely concerned about a number of orders introduced by Mr Trump.

"He's got a big ego, as we know… and he's a bit of a bully. And you have to stand up to bullies," she said.

But she believes Mr Trump will be influenced by the reaction from the public to his policies.

"The trouble is that this ban on all refugees from Syria and the ban on seven largely Muslim countries has really upset a balance globally," she said.

Irish Independent

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