Friday 23 August 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'Warm hand of friendship is needed despite the chill'


Visit: US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania will arrive in Ireland on Wednesday. Photo: REUTERS
Visit: US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania will arrive in Ireland on Wednesday. Photo: REUTERS
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

When Donald Trump flies into Shannon on Wednesday, there'll be a bit of a chill in the air.

Forecasters are predicting that most Irish of days which brings together sunshine and showers. A bit of everything.

But Met Éireann says the winds will be calm if the US president ventures on to the golf links at his five-star resort in Doonbeg.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar could take his lead from the weather on this one.

He meets Mr Trump at a time of great international turmoil. Trade wars, climate change and Brexit will all be on the agenda.

But there is little point in the Taoiseach trying to light a fire under his guest.

Trump is not coming to Ireland to be lectured or hectored. If we're being brutally honest, he will be here to promote his hotel and skive off work for a couple of days. In any event, he doesn't respond well to being told off.

So Mr Varadkar must extend a warm hand of friendship while simultaneously expressing the somewhat chilly view the majority of people in Ireland hold towards the current White House. Sunshine and showers.

No matter what happens, the Taoiseach will want to avoid creating a storm.

The US president goes to Britain today where he has already created more than a stir by backing Boris Johnson in the race to be the next prime minister.

He has also waded into the most contentious issue in British politics by urging the UK government to leave the EU without a deal if it can't get a better Withdrawal Agreement.

The former businessman urged politicians to "walk away" from talks and refuse to pay a £39bn (€44bn) divorce bill. He also suggested the Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage should be given a role in the negotiations, describing him as "a very smart person".

"They won't bring him in. Think how well they would do if they did. They just haven't figured that out yet."

What can Mr Varadkar do to convince the president that Brexit is a negative move?

Probably very little. At best he can restate the importance of protecting the open Border on this island.

Given the result of the local and European elections, the Taoiseach is also likely to raise the climate emergency. Over the weekend, hundreds of climate change experts urged Theresa May to confront Trump over his approach to the issue during his state visit this week.

A letter signed by 250 academics from universities and research bodies across the UK states the US president's "refusal" to tackle global warming is "increasing risks for lives and livelihoods" around the world. Mr Varadkar will need to echo that message to have any hope of pacifying the thousands of protesters who will gather in Shannon.

There will be little pomp or ceremony for the president, who is essentially here on a summer holiday.

As always when a Taoiseach meets the US president, time will be found for plaudits and conversations about renewing Irish-American ties.

But within an hour Trump is likely to be on his way from Shannon Airport to Doonbeg, while Mr Varadkar legs it back to Dublin. On the drive back, the Taoiseach is likely to keep an eye on Twitter to make sure he hasn't accidentally started a global shouting match.

Mr Varadkar recently said he would have voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump if he was an American.

But he has been to the White House twice now and enjoyed the president's hospitality.

That honour comes with a cost. A meeting in the airport is probably the cheapest payback the Government could hope for. Short, quick and little opportunity to land in hot water.

Spare a thought for Mrs May, who steps down as Conservative Party leader on Friday.

Irish Independent

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