Sunday 17 February 2019

We should be asking him to help us

Ireland has more pressing problems than worrying about Donald Trump, writes Niamh Horan

US President Donald Trump (Timothy D Easley/AP)
US President Donald Trump (Timothy D Easley/AP)
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

There is a great irony in plans for a mass protest to welcome US President Donald Trump when he arrives in Ireland in November.

Over the past 10 years we have watched in horror as our own politicians made one reckless, unpatriotic, decision after the next.

They bailed out the banks, put Ireland up for sale to US vulture funds and imposed a harsh austerity programme to socialise the costs of private debt.

Yet - save for a few, relatively small movements - in comparison to the sheer scale and loss suffered, we didn't make much of a fuss.

And, here we are, eight weeks from the world's most powerful man visiting to ''renew the deep and historic ties between our two nations'' and suddenly we become revolutionaries.

Surely we should march about decisions made closer to home before taking on the world.

Aside from anything else, including the fact that we should respect democracy, we need President Trump.

This weekend the Government's financial watchdog has warned an "adverse shock" to the Irish economy is inevitable. Brexit, the US president's protectionist trade policies and changes to the international tax environment leave us at serious risk. Meanwhile, the value of American multinationals in Ireland is of critical importance.

More than 155,000 people are directly employed in over 700 US firms in Ireland, while a further 100,000 jobs are indirectly supported by these giants. US firms, in total, account for 20pc of employment in Ireland and will remain the largest source of new investment in the future.

And some people want us to shut the door in his face?

Protesters are entitled to register their unhappiness at US policy decisions but surely they can also see the absurdity in it.

Is it not time to get our own house in order first?

If you want an issue to harness the energy of hundreds of thousands of your countrymen, perhaps then, the housing crisis, would be a better place to start.

There are nearly 10,000 Irish people now homeless. That includes the highest number of children ever recorded. Dublin rents have soared past Celtic Tiger levels, a lack of student accommodation means students will have to give up college places or drop out due to long commutes, house prices make the prospect of ever owning a home a distant dream for many and the Government's failed ''Rebuilding Ireland'' programme has proven its incompetence and left us open to another crash.

I read this week that campaign groups want to ''revive the spirit'' of Daniel O'Connell's mass demonstrations. I'm sure O'Connell could think of a lot better issues to get vocal about. I'm also sure, if Trump was in charge here, we wouldn't be in this mess. A shrewd, canny operator in the viper den of New York real estate, he has survived serious financial crises, which would have floored lesser men. His real estate developments and brands are now worth €3.3bn. Merely putting his name on a building increases the property's value by 25pc.

In 2014, as part of his comeback, he bought Doonbeg golf course, which - after trawling through Nama properties looking for a potential investment - he snapped it up from receivers for €8.7m, a snip considering the initial build cost at €28m.

It would certainly be interesting to hear his take on our Government's handling of the crisis now.

Meanwhile, his own economy is booming. More Americans are satisfied with the direction of the country than in any other time in the last 12 years.

People there are confident - in their leaders, their prospects and in their economy. They voted for him; we should respect it.

And if anything, we shouldn't be marching against Trump, we should be asking him for help.

Sunday Independent

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