Government minister Leo Varadkar has voiced his deep concern after Donald Trump unveiled an isolationist vision of America in a divisive and fiery inauguration address.
Mr Varadkar branded the US president’s ‘America First’ manifesto “nationalistic” and said it seemed he intended to govern as he had campaigned for the presidency. Mr Trump’s speech was described as “worrisome” by Mr Varadkar.
However, the Social Protection Minister also said the “economic and cultural” ties that bound Ireland and America were “stronger and will outlast any presidency there or government here”.
Mr Varadkar’s comments came as more than two million people worldwide took to the streets in protest at Mr Trump’s comments on women which were a central issue of the election campaign.
Women in Ireland marched in their thousands, adding their voices to those around the world in a potent and unprecedented global day of protest against the new president.
As many as half a million people gathered for a ‘Women’s March on Washington’, said to be the largest single protest in the US capital since 600,000 demonstrated against the Vietnam War in 1969. On the president’s first full day in office more than 2,000 people, mostly women, marched in Dublin — one of more than 670 marches and rallies worldwide.
Protestors in New York Photo: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
Mr Trump’s inaugural speech was an unflinching and defiantly nationalistic message to the world. “We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power,” he said. “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first.”
He then immediately settled into the job, beginning a series of executive actions designed to systematically tear down his predecessor’s legacy. He signed one executive order pertaining to the Affordable Care Act and separately issued a memorandum to all federal departments and agencies ordering an immediate freeze on regulations.
Mr Trump, who sees his election as part of a global movement that includes Britain’s decision to leave the EU, appeared to want his speech to resonate beyond US borders. He echoed the nationalist mantra of one of the most controversial US leaders, President Andrew Jackson, saying that he would focus entirely on rebuilding America.
“Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families,” Mr Trump said. “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”
A protestor in Auckland Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
In a bizarre twist, Trump is accusing the news media of lying about the size of the crowd at his inauguration.
Addressing employees at CIA headquarters in Virginia, Trump wrongly said the crowd had stretched all the way to the Washington Monument in the middle of the National Mall. Trump also told CIA employees whose work he has publicly doubted that no one feels stronger about the intelligence community than he does. “I am so behind you,” he said.
“Last night Mr Varadkar told the Sunday Independent: “Donald Trump is now president and we have to respect that and do the best we can to work with the new US administration. The ties that bind Ireland are economic, cultural and familial. They are stronger and outlast any presidency there or government here. The inaugural speech was nationalistic.
It seems President Trump intends to govern as he campaigned. That is worrisome.”
While Mr Varadkar was one of the most senior politicians in Ireland, and indeed the Western world, to voice concern, several other Irish politicians yesterday weighed in behind the protest movement.
Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell said she was concerned about Mr Trump’s “vulgar” comments towards women. “He doesn’t seem to think that men and women share the world — it’s almost like he thinks men own the world and women merely decorate it,” she said.
Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan said she was “very apprehensive” about Mr Trump’s presidency. “I think he was quite derogatory in his comments towards women and the people who voted for him have condoned those sentences but the reality is he is President and we have to deal with him” Ms Madigan said.
Former Labour Party leader Joan Burton said the Dublin march was part of the “very strong tradition” of US demo marching on Capitol Hill to highlight injustices. Ms Burton said Mr Trump had a “very backward view” of women’s rights and said it was important to show the new US administration that “women will continue to fight to progress women’s issues”.
The Sunday Independent understands ministers in the Department of Foreign Affairs will fly to Washington in the coming weeks to begin building ties with the new US administration ahead of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit to the US on St Patrick’s Day.
The Government is apprehensive about the St Patrick’s Day visit as it is still unclear what Mr Trump’s attitude to Ireland will be.
Fine Gael sources this weekend said they were concerned that the new president would strip back the annual White House celebrations in March. It was also unclear last night if Mr Trump would be invited to Ireland by the Taoiseach when he visits Washington.
A senior government source said: “You don’t ask questions you don’t know the answers to and at this stage we don’t know how he would react. Less than 24 hours after the harsh rhetoric of Mr Trump’s first address, people around the world were protesting. The marches were aimed at highlighting women’s rights, which protesters believe to be under threat from Mr Trump and his new administration. Thousands of Irish people took part in the Women’s March in four locations yesterday. The biggest was in Dublin as protesters gathered at the Garden of Remembrance before noon.
The city centre was then brought to a standstill as they made their way through O’Connell Street and on to Trinity College before rallying outside the GPO.
Hundreds more gathered at separate events in Galway city, Castlebar, Co Mayo and Belfast. In Washington, organisers had originally sought a permit for 200,000 people but last night it was clear that as many as 500,000 attended.
There were protests in at least 300 cities across the US. Marches also took place in Australia, New Zealand and in Asian cities including Bangkok.