| 14.4°C Dublin

Michael D should be the one to invite Trump over


Donald Trump  Photo: Evan Vucci

Donald Trump Photo: Evan Vucci


Donald Trump Photo: Evan Vucci

It is fair to say that at this stage in our obsession with talking about Donald Trump as if we matter, that we have become like a bunch of priests. We are high on our own sanctimonious finger-wagging. We surely reached some kind of peak tut-tuttage last Thursday when we managed to get indignant about the fact that he may have conflicts of interest around his business. We paraded various academics out in the media to tell us why Trump should sell off all his assets. (Factoid, the last outsider and scourge of the elite who became president, Jimmy Carter, didn't sell his peanut farm. He gave it to his mother and his brother).

We are becoming addicted to virtue in this country. It has even infected the insular echo-chamber nature of politics in the North, previously impervious to the modern world and obsessed with its own 'situation'. Sinn Fein's opportunistic calling of an election started off by being about the so-called Cash for Ash scandal. Then it seemed to become about the Irish language, then about teaching the DUP a lesson and taking them down a peg or two for their arrogance.

Then, by Friday, Michelle O'Neill, being touted (I use that word in the general sense, not in its Northern Ireland meaning) as the new leader of SF in NI, was telling Morning Ireland, that what it was, in fact, about was the DUP attitude towards women and the LGBT community. It used to be 'don't hit me - I've got the peace process in my arms'. Now the best way to become a sacred cow in Ireland is to reference LGBT people and women.

We learnt much from Donald Trump's extraordinary press conference last week. One was that any fears that things would get less entertaining as The Donald became more 'presidential' are unfounded. Though the first half was actually relatively sane, all things considered.

Here was a man in a completely untenable position, meeting the press formally for the first time in months, a man who is, by the standards of most people's normality, a complete lunatic, but who is somehow about to become the president of the United States. In a weird way, it was hard not to be impressed.

As the completely bizarre, if probably untrue, revelations of goldenshowergate swirled around, Trump initially cut a vaguely plausible figure. He talked a lot about jobs and even dealt with the rumours about his alleged kompromat in Russia with good humour. Relatively speaking, once you managed to suspend your disbelief and accept that this was really happening, it seemed almost normal.

And they possibly should have just left it at that. Part 2, when he came back and got in a shouting match with a journalist, and when the press showed that they clearly have no intention of treating Trump any differently now that he has won, was highly entertaining, bonkers and, yes, a little unsettling.

But the extraordinary thing was that what should have been the big takeaway from that press conference for Ireland received a more muted response than the usual moral and taste issues around Trump. The thing that should be burnt into our brains about Trump right now is that he is going to war on Big Pharma, and not in a good way for Ireland. He wants them to come home and start making their overpriced drugs on American soil.

OK, so let's take it as read that we all find Trump at times offensive, and generally distasteful. He offends our modern happy-clappy notions about multiculturalism and respect for minorities and the rest of it. And these things are important, and we should note them.

But we should remember too why Trump won and why the Liberal Elite, exemplified by Hillary, lost. The Liberal Elite are still fighting the culture wars. Meryl Streep exemplified that again last week with her speech at the Golden Globes, cheered on by all the other millionaire luvvies.

More luvvie-ish than Meryl's Speech was Robert de Niro's letter of support to her. My two favourite lines were when he said, "I have so much respect for you that you did it while the world was celebrating your achievements", and his sign-off - "We love you, Bob".

But have we not learnt that while the culture wars are very important in terms of how we live our lives today, if the left wants to get back to its traditional support base - the working classes - it needs to start fighting the economic wars? Identity politics is all very well but it doesn't butter any parsnips with the unemployed or the working classes or the middle classes who worry for their jobs and their futures.

And in the first half of that insane press conference, Trump did one very sane thing. He positioned himself as the jobs guy. He pointed to how he is already bringing jobs back to America in the motor industry (which was seemingly done almost with the power of Twitter alone) and he talked about all the other jobs he's going to create. That was paper over a lot of offence.

If Trump gets jobs for people, they won't care what watersports he may have indulged in. Because people without jobs, and without a future, don't have the luxury of finding Trump distasteful. If he delivers for them what they think the liberal globalisation project took from them, then he will be their man.

Which brings us back to Ireland. All right-thinking people here are appalled by Trump. According to a survey by Ireland Thinks, half of us think he shouldn't be invited here. Two thirds of women think we should shun him. Fifty people complained to Enda Kenny after he congratulated him.

For all right-thinking people in Ireland, the Trump issue is fairly black and white. There is no good in this situation. It is terrible. You even hear them whinging now about his lack of interest in global politics and his distaste for nation-building. And yes, it's confusing. Because these are the same people who have protested against American interference in other countries for decades now. And these are the same people who idolise the strangely isolationist Obama.

But Irish liberals should remember one thing. As offensive as they may find Trump, he will not hurt them. We are secure in our virtue in this country. Trump won't make us more racist or sexist. He won't legitimise sexual assault in Ireland.

However, there is one way in which Trump can really hurt us. Big Pharma provides up to 30,000 well-paid jobs in Ireland, many of them outside the Pale, in places like Cork and Mayo. It accounts for more than a third of our manufacturing, compared to about 3.5pc across Europe. This is more important considering we have devastated a lot of our traditional manufacturing on this island as we became more and more dependent on services.

Pharma is a huge component in our exports, and it was one of the few sectors that held up in keeping export cash coming into the country during the recession.

Obviously jobs are not the be-all and end-all to the Irish left. They often seem more concerned with getting more and more handouts for people, almost encouraging a culture of learned helplessness.

But again, they need to remember that for most people, it's the economy stupid, and that's why Trump won.

So we should learn a lesson here, hold our noses and stick out the hand of friendship to Trump. We won't catch alt-right or misogyny off him, but if we can develop some kind of good relationship, we may be able to convince him that he shouldn't have the decimation of our pharma industry in his cross-hairs.

And after all, Irish liberals are good at grey areas. Wasn't Michael D, the patron saint of Irish liberals, able to see past the many distasteful things about Comrade Castro?

Maybe he could be the one to lead us in being pragmatic about Comrade Trump too. Maybe Michael D should take the lead and issue an invite.

Sunday Independent