We Don’t Have To Be Back

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From top: US president Donald Trump and former Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the White House last year’ Leo Varadkar with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger during a visit to Santa Monica, Los Angeles yesterday; Shane Heneghan

Ahead of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s first visit to the White House this week.

Shane Heneghan writes:

It won’t be easy, will it? It’s not going to be one of your best photo ops. In fact, it will probably have your liberal east coast fan base up in arms- and shaking hands with the entire Choctaw nation won’t change that. It’s probably best to concede that the St. Patrick’s day rendezvous with the Donald is a necessary evil. But is it?

When your predecessor, John A. Costello, inaugurated this paddy wackery by giving Eisenhower a bowl of shamrock in the 1950s, the atmosphere was very different.

Ireland was going through it’s toughest decade economically of the 20th, century and immigration was threatening to push the population below two million. America’s economy, by contrast was roaring ahead and national self confidence was still sky high after victory in world war two.

But Taoiseach, you are no John A. Costello and, it goes without saying that Trump is not Ike.

Does it really have to be a given that our head of government has to slavishly kow-tow to the President of the United States on our national holiday every single year regardless of who holds either office?

Surely other countries on the radar would be just as accommodating. I have a few suggestions on your alternatives.

Berlin: You came to power seeking to lead a government of the “European centre” so for Paddy’s day why not go to the centre of Europe? Poor auld Angie has had a rough few months putting a coalition together. I know you can sympathise with this and we all know she has a green pants suit she’s just dying to wear for the occasion.


London:
Not a conventional choice, I grant you. But our Theresa is another women in dire need of a break and could do with putting things into soft focus for a while- it just might help ease the brexit tensions. Plus, if you ask nicely, I’m sure she’ll let you see the Hugh Grant staircase again too.

Edinburgh: By contrast you could seek to emphasise older Celtic links as Nicola Sturgeon is hugely popular in Ireland and in general. The optics of a visit to Scotland would just scream “Hey Theresa, I got a hard border for ya, it starts in Berwick-on-Tweed!” Plus a photo of you in a kilt will totes break the internet- you can’t buy that.


Paris:
We all know you want another chance to spring some more leaving cert French on us and the reflective glow factor from Emmanuel Macron is massive, I don’t need to tell you that- but be careful of being burned a la Icarus by flying to close to the sun (king).

Ottowa: You know who you’re real ideological soul mate in North America is and he doesn’t live on Pennsylvania avenue. We can bet he’s got a pair of green socks just waiting for the occasion.

Joking aside, politely refusing to meet Trump for just one year out of his four year term could send a powerful statement around the world about your government’s values. Think about it. It might be one of the most powerful diplomatic tools you have at your disposal.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter: @shaneheneghan

Pics: Rollingnews/Leo Varadkar

12 thoughts on “We Don’t Have To Be Back

  1. fergalfurious

    Enda, Leo and Simon made pretty powerful statements about President Trump while Hillary was somehow considered a shoo-in.
    Curtsying, apologizing profusely and handing over the bowl is Leo’s job now. Only a “poll watcher” would be deluded enough to think otherwise.

  2. Joe Small

    Politics is all about precedent. If Leo cancelled on Trump, there would be no future invitations during a Trump presidency (possible two terms!) and, its quite possible that the practice would lapse altogether. Its an amazing opportunity for a small country to have a coordinated, fixed, annual opportunity to collectively lobby the American political establishment. in the real world of politics, this isn’t passed over. Irish jobs and the Northern Ireland peace process are just two issues here.

  3. Shane Heneghan

    For many years, the function was undertaken by the minister for Foreign affairs or an ambassador. The idea of the sitting Taoiseach being more or less permanently obliged to do it (at least as gross an affront to Irish sovereignty as the Shannon rendition scandals) only became en vogue in the 1990s.
    https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/a-short-history-of-taoisigh-visiting-the-white-house-on-st-patrick-s-day-1.3005736

    My point is tongue in cheek- but I still find those who opine “oh but he HAS to go” just a small bit deluded.
    The US is important but aint the only show in town.

  4. Gabby

    It’s all about waving the flag, photo-oppery and selling Ireland. The Irish-Americans are an important part of our ethno-tourist industry, and so are Blarney Castle, Kate Kearney’s cottage and The Quiet Man. I prefer that to the Temple Bar stag- and hen party vomit-on-the-cobbled-street attraction.

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