Thursday 22 August 2019

St Patrick's Day invite is sign of hope and eggs put in the wrong basket

President Barack Obama receives the traditional bowl of shamrock. Donald Trump has invited the Taoiseach to the White House on St Patrick’s Day. Photo: Leslie E. Kossoff/LK Photos
President Barack Obama receives the traditional bowl of shamrock. Donald Trump has invited the Taoiseach to the White House on St Patrick’s Day. Photo: Leslie E. Kossoff/LK Photos
John Downing

John Downing

IT WAS a good and timely sign that President-elect Trump extended the St Patrick's Day invitation.

The occasion is not about back-slapping 'Paddywhackery'. It is hard- won, valuable access to the most powerful political machine on the planet, and it reminds Washington of the still considerable Irish-origin community in the US.

The early call between President-elect Trump and the Taoiseach was of itself a positive sign.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney said the invitation offered reassurance that business between Ireland and the United States would continue. "A lot of what was said during this presidential campaign was very bitter, nasty and concerned a lot of people," he said.

"What we need to do now is judge the President-elect on his comments as President-elect."

He said Ireland had an important relationship with the US and needed to reinforce and maintain it.

Mr Coveney said people might not forget the comments of Mr Trump during the presidential campaign. But the democratic decision had been made by the American people and Ireland needed to focus on the future relationship rather than looking back.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin, now of course on the opposition benches, tried to sport his 'green jersey' while giving his assessment.

The veteran of three coalitions rightly described the St Patrick's Day invitation as "much more than just a photo op". But unlike Mr Coveney, the Labour leader had his misgivings about the future in a Trump-led world.

"There are really deep interpersonal relationships with important American players and Ireland," Mr Howlin told RTE's Seán O'Rourke.

"Will the next interaction with the Trump presidency be as deep and as meaningful as that? There are people like Pence around Donald Trump and within the Republican party at senior level; to maintain those close relations, we need to cultivate those now."

The Labour man did not spare the rhetoric in his expressions of dread. "I can't think of any other political event that fills me with as much dread as a Trump presidency," he said.

There is no point in going all Pollyanna on the strength of one important and welcome White House invitation. In the Dáil, Mr Howlin was asking how Mr Kenny and the Government could boost the cause of Irish undocumented immigrants in the US.

After all, Mr Trump was talking about deportations - and insistent that people who broke US immigration law could not profit from it by gaining legal status.

Then there is the question of US company tax policy. Finance Minister Michael Noonan is right to say there is always talk of big changes here at election time.

But on BBC Radio 4, a key economic adviser to Mr Trump, Stephen Moore, had some determined things to say about cutting US business rates from 35pc to 15-20pc. "We see day after day in this country that we are losing our businesses and our corporations," he said.

"They are effectively renouncing their US citizenship and they are moving to Canada, to Britain, to Ireland, to China and Mexico.

"That is a significant loss of jobs and we want to have the jobs here in the United States."

It is hard to get more explicit than that and it suggests this time things could be different. Irish officials argue that Mr Moore's arguments are simplistic and they point out that 10,000 people in the US now work for Irish companies there. Happily, Ireland has arguments - but they will need to deploy all of them.

Overall, the experience tells us that Mr Kenny's government erred by putting all its eggs in Hillary Clinton's Democratic basket.

Irish Independent

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