Trump’s Irish visit came ‘out of the blue’, Varadkar says as he calls for US president to be treated with respect

Leo Varadkar with US President Donald Trump at the White House. Picture: Getty
Leo Varadkar with US President Donald Trump at the White House. Picture: Getty
US President Donald Trump will take up an offer from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to visit Ireland. Photo: PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and United States President Donald J. Trump. Photo: Getty Images

DONALD Trump’s announcement that he is going to visit to Ireland this year came “out of the blue”, Taoiseach Leo Vardadkar has said.

The US President will come here in November for two days, which Varadkar said wasn’t expected.

Speaking on The Marty Squad on RTE Radio One this evening, he explained: “It came a little bit out of the blue.

“There is an open invitation to the US President to visit Ireland at any time, I think they’ve all visited since Reagan, if not before and obviously there’s an open invitation for me, or any future Taoiseach, to attend Washington in March.

“We hadn’t known until just a couple of days ago that he was going to take the opportunity of his visit to Paris for the Armistice commemorations, commemorating a hundred years of the end of the First World War, to visit Dublin, and also he’s going to go to Doonbeg too.

“We’ve got to work out on a programme and all the rest of it but I think any programme we will have will have to respect the fact that we will inaugurating our own President on the 11th of November.

“And also will have to make sure that we have enough time and space to commemorate the Armistice because bear in mind hundreds of thousands of Irish people, including a lot of people from this city, fought in the first world war. We need to make sure that’s appropriate and fits around that as well.”

The visit has sparked controversy and calls for protests to be held and the Fine Gael leader said that while he may not entirely agree with Trump’s policies, he is entitled to visit here.

Mr Varadkar said: “President Trump is coming in November, he is the President of America.

“I know a lot of people dislike him. A lot of people object to him. A lot of people disagree with a lot of his policies, just as I do in fact. But he is the President of America.
“He is elected according to their rules, and the relationship between Ireland and the United States is so strong and so important, much more important than any Irish government or any US administration and I think we have to treat his office with the respect that it deserves.”

Taoiseach visits United States of AmericaTaoiseach visits United States of America

Taoiseach visits United States of America

His comments come after Cabinet Minister Finian McGrath and Minister of State John Halligan said yesterday they would protest on the streets with other demonstrators when Mr Trump arrives in the country for the first time since being elected president.

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The move by the Independent Alliance ministers could cause a major diplomatic headache for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ahead of Mr Trump’s arrival. It is a highly unusual move for two Government ministers to publicly protest against a State visit while serving in office.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr McGrath said Mr Trump was “wrecking the planet” and insisted he would “not roll out the red carpet” for the US President. “I firmly believe Mr Trump’s policies, both domestic and international, are causing major problems in the world especially around equality and immigration,” he said.

Mr McGrath confirmed he would join the protest and said he intended to raise concerns with the Taoiseach at this week’s Cabinet meeting.

Mr Halligan said he understood Mr Varadkar would have to meet the US President but said he would also be protesting. “I think he is egotistical, I think he is arrogant, I think he is anti-woman, he’s anti-LGBT, he’s dangerous and divisive,” Mr Halligan told the Sunday Independent.

“Ireland is a moderate and compassionate society and we all need to show our displeasure,” he added.

Within hours of the White House announcing Mr Trump’s State visit to Ireland, Opposition politicians began organising demonstrations.

Eamon Ryan. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan called on people to gather on College Green in Dublin city centre on November 10 when Mr Trump is expected to arrive.

“Donald Trump’s administration champions policies that are destroying our planet, destabilising international order, and reaching new political depths by appealing to racism, misogyny, xenophobia and hatred,” he said.

“These policies do not reflect the Irish people’s values – we need to show him and the world that this is not normal,” he added.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said Ireland “will not welcome” Mr Trump because of his “record of discrimination, sexism and lies”. He urged people to protest against the visit.

Mr Howlin also noted that the Taoiseach had not personally announced that Mr Trump would be visiting Ireland.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett described Mr Trump as a “promoter of hatred, war and environmental destruction” and also urged people to take part in demonstrations against the visits.

“He has stirred up filthy racism against migrants, Muslims and other minorities,” he said.

“He has encouraged the growth of openly fascist and far-right parties across the world. He has encouraged and legitimised sexism and homophobia.”

President Trump is expected to arrive in Dublin after taking part in commemorations in France marking the centenary of the ending of World War I. He will attend a number of events in Dublin before visiting his golf resort in Doonbeg, Co Clare.

Clare-based Minister of State Pat Breen said the local community was “very positive” about Mr Trump’s visit. “If you like him or not, the reality is he’s the [American] president and this is more than about Donald Trump, it’s about the American people and the relationship they have with Ireland,” he said.

After the visit was announced by the White House, Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the “US President is always welcome in Ireland”.

“Our two countries have such strong historic, economic, cultural and family ties. Maintaining those connections is always a top priority,” he wrote on Twitter.

However, less than an hour later, Mr Coveney criticised Mr Trump’s decision to stop providing aid to the UN’s Palestinian refugee programme.

He said the “shocking decision” would make it more difficult to achieve peace in the region.

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