Sunday 16 June 2019

Martina Devlin: 'If war veterans can stomach the serial draft-dodger at the D-Day commemorations, surely we in Ireland can plaster on a smile for some formalities with Trump'

U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

Sad news. My trip to Ireland is in doubt because Ireland's DUMBASS LOSERS are objecting to a meeting in Doonbeg. Ever been? Amazing place. You should go. As super-busy #BestPresidentEver I have a lot of presidenting to do and Doonbeg works for me. You'd think they'd get that. D'oh! This is bad, Ireland, BAD!!

[Twitter for iPhone]

If I do go the Irish better give me a bigger welcome than Nancy Pelosi. I expect serious ass-kissing. Make it big, people. I'm a WORLD LEADER!! But don't expect me to be like Needy Nancy and visit the Irish Border because the only borders I like have walls and guards. #BestPresidentEver

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[Twitter for iPhone]

The FAKE NEWS 'Washington Post' says I want to go Ireland to court the Irish-American vote. NO NEED! They love me already. My approval ratings have skyrocketed. Highest economy and employment numbers EVER. This is a golden era! I'm delivering for America! #BestPresidentEver

[Twitter for iPhone]

Seriously people I had a great itinerary lined up for Doonbeg. The Irish Government being obstructive doesn't hurt me it hurts Americans! I was going to play a round of golf with Rory. Check out the wall I built there. I'm an expert on walls. The Irish are lucky to have Doonbeg. Envy of the world. Like my America run by ME!! #BestPresidentEver

[Twitter for iPhone]

So, POTUS isn't even here yet and already we can imagine the kind of tweets running through his head. President Donald Trump wants the focus to be his Trump International Golf Links at Doonbeg in Co Clare, where overnight stay rates range from ouch to yee-ouch, especially for a sea view. In fairness, his investment provides an important source of employment in a remote and beautiful part of the country.

But there's a difference between an individual's business concerns and doing business on a nation's behalf. Mr Trump's stance, that he can blend both, is a self-interested one. No reason why it should be accepted generally.

Pushback is happening from Ireland. The Government doesn't think it appropriate for Mr Trump's meeting with the Taoiseach to take place at Doonbeg and puts forward Dromoland Castle, 50km away. Pushing back against pushback, White House officials are suggesting Mr Trump can just as easily go to one of his golf courses in Scotland.

There is no grand strategy here. Mr Trump simply wants to plug his investment. The question is whether this is a state visit or a holiday with benefits; specifically, a chance to garner footage that will please Irish-America and can be shown again during the 2020 presidential race.

Even if he regards it as an R&R break between official visits to Britain and France, the reality is he's a head of state. Some formal element is inevitable. Trumpworld doesn't see things the way the rest of the world does, of course. And he's the planet's most powerful person. So do we roll over and have our tummies tickled? Or take issue with his PR agenda where it collides with protocol?

Leo Varadkar has adopted a firm position. Mr Trump is welcome but he won't do the official meeting with him at Doonbeg. Some say the Taoiseach is overplaying his hand. I say Ireland is a sovereign state, not the 51st state of the US, and a visiting president can't do a power grab.

Yes, US companies are big employers here - some 155,000 people are directly employed and a further 100,000 indirectly, according to the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland. Yes, we need all the friends we can muster, especially if there's a hard Brexit when the Border question intensifies.

Nancy Pelosi has expressed her support in this scenario but Mr Trump's backing wouldn't go amiss, too. Already, the rhetoric is ratcheting up in Britain with Theresa May's would-be replacements vying to look like strong leaders.

However, there is a winning strategy in business and politics called compromise. Some workaround should be agreed. Must it be Dromoland, with a rival golf course to Doonbeg? An alternative venue ought to be chosen.

So far, there is no clarity on whether or not Mr Trump will visit. Apparently, protocol requires the White House to make any announcement, although you can never rule out a social media revelation one way or the other from Mr Trump. This is a man who tries to runs his country from a Twitter feed (60 million followers).

His Twitter account, strangely addictive and horrifying in equal measure, is a window into his thoughts at any given moment. Joe Biden, currently the Democrat frontrunner in the 2020 race, is "SleepyCreepy Joe" while Bernie Sanders at number two is "Crazy Bernie". This is not what's usually regarded as presidential behaviour - in fact, it's abusive - but in Trumpworld it's the norm.

Nevertheless, if Air Force One flies him in we should treat him with every courtesy. We'll have to set aside temporarily our feelings about his over-dependence on industrial strength hairspray, fixation on conspiracy theories, admiration for dictators, taste for fast food and bumper sticker-style sound bites - because it's the office, and not the man, we are hosting.

Mr Varadkar has noted the connections between Ireland and the US, saying "we want to keep those links strong regardless of who is president or Taoiseach". It's in Ireland's interests to do so.

Mr Trump represents the American people. To disrespect him is to disrespect them, and that's not a road we want to travel.

If World War II veterans can stomach a serial draft-dodger embodying America at the 75th D-Day commemorations, we should be able to plaster on a smile at some formalities in Ireland. In any case, it's doubtful if the public will take much notice, although Melania is likely to attract attention.

There will be protesters and that's democracy in action - demonstrators turned out when other US presidents visited. After all, people have legitimate concerns about the kind of politics he promotes, the coarsening of public debate spearheaded by him, the way he turns political opponents into enemies.

There are fears the US may be preparing for war with Iran under Mr Trump. He's a climate change denier. He's volatile and unpredictable - for example, he cut Special Olympics funding, then did an about-turn.

He was due to visit Ireland last year but cancelled for "scheduling reasons". So the June trip could fall through on a whim, even if the Cabinet was so keen to humour him it met in Doonbeg.

Will he come to Ireland? On balance, probably. Watch out for a tweet along these lines:

If I do go to Ireland - and it's a big if because I'm awesome and the Irish aren't respecting me properly - it'll be the best visit ever. Better than Obama, Clinton, Reagan, JFK. Because I'm the Greatest!! Game over I win. #BESTPRESIDENTEVER!!! [Twitter for iPhone]

Irish Independent

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