Saturday 19 October 2019

Editorial: 'Divisive Trump should not weaken links with America'

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tour Westminster Abbey as part of their UK state visit. Photo: REUTERS/Simon Dawson
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tour Westminster Abbey as part of their UK state visit. Photo: REUTERS/Simon Dawson


The first use of a red carpet in literature came in the play 'Agamemnon' by Aeschylus, written in 458 BC.

The victorious king returns from Troy to discover his wife has laid down a crimson path so that her lord's feet need not touch the earth. But the illustrious warrior is mortified by a gesture normally reserved for a god.

It is hard to imagine President Donald Trump being in any way humbled by whatever pomp and ceremony attend his welcome in these islands over coming days.

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There was a time when a head of state would deem a state visit a success if they could slip in and out of a country like a cat burglar, leaving with what they wanted almost without anyone noticing.

Mr Trump's arrivals are generally preceded by an assault launched deep in the Twitter-sphere. His visits provoke lightning storms and palpitations among politicians and diplomats. He makes a point of smashing every delicate pane of glass in the protocol department.

Before disembarking from Airforce One he had managed to spark a flare-up with London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, branding him a "stone cold loser". And before even getting on the plane, he had endorsed Boris Johnson as the next Tory leader, adding for good measure that Nigel Farage ought to be involved in renegotiating Brexit with the EU.

Such unambiguous interference in the internal affairs of a host state is unprecedented, but the "Confounder in Chief" has marked out his territory in the unprecedented, the unorthodox or the downright divisive.

His 'America first' policies have put him on a collision course with the EU - a factor which ought not be overlooked in his full-blooded backing for Brexit.

He has also shown himself to be deeply uncomfortable with supporting long-standing relationships, preferring to follow what he sees as his own view of what is best for the US, and his all-important base. His recent tariff move on Mexico and his trade war with China could well be precursors to a global recession.

With Mr Trump, there is no left or centre, there is only a sharp right.

For such reasons, there will be no shortage of those wishing to protest at the 45th US president's arrival. Resentment at Mr Trump's backing for those comfortable with a UK crash-out from the EU without a deal is understandable.

Nothing could be more injurious to Irish interests or, indeed, to the interests of the Good Friday Agreement, which could not have been built without the loyal backing of the US.

Mr Trump's endorsement of Boris Johnson could have far-reaching consequences for this country. The former foreign secretary boasts of renegotiating the UK's withdrawal agreement and banishing the backstop.

But the dignity of office must be respected. Links between the US and Ireland were forged over generations. Mr Trump will get a full Irish welcome. True friends do not demand silence or subvert the right to disagree.

Irish Independent

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