Politics

Irish Prime Minister Will Meet With President Trump This Week

On Thursday, Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), will spend the day with President Donald Trump, and it seems to be causing some trouble for him back home.

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It's a tradition between the two countries for the Taoiseach to visit the U.S. during St. Patrick's Day week. The Irish leader usually comes bearing a bowl of shamrocks and is paraded around Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and the White House to take part in the holiday festivities.

The reasons for the visit are simple. There are a large number of Irish Americans in the U.S. and America has over $300 billion invested in Ireland. In the months leading up to the trip, Kenny faced calls from constituents to decline Trump's invitation to the White House.

Almost 40,000 people have signed a petition making it clear that the Taoiseach doesn't speak for the country's inhabitants on the visit. The trip was almost the topic of a debate in the Dail, Ireland's Parliament. The Irish Green and Labour Parties denounced the visit. And the Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit party was harshest in its denunciations of the visit.

"Is Enda Kenny going to go in and say what he said in the Dáil, that we think he’s a racist and dangerous man? He’s not," said party member Paul Murphy on Jan. 31. “The reality is he’ll go in, he’ll be tame and craven."

Two members of Kenny's government have also spoken out against Kenny's trip, with Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan describing Trump as a "sexual predator."

Compounding the controversy, Kenny's visit to the White House Thursday will coincide with the institution of Trump's new travel ban from six Muslim countries. The anger at Kenny's U.S. visit was still evident on social media over the last 48 hours.

Former Maryland Governor and one-time 2016 presidential contender Martin O'Malley is calling on Irish Americans to boycott the traditional White House reception for the Taoiseach. O'Malley's pleas are likely to go unheard, as the event is "traditionally the hottest ticket in the Irish American social calendar."

Still, the former governor is pushing the #NoShamrocks hashtag on social media in the hopes he can change the hearts and minds of his fellow Irish-American elites. O'Malley also asked like-minded Irish-Americans to sign a petition calling on Kenny and Irish American Members of Congress to reject the Trump St. Patrick's Day social event on Thursday evening.

"No shamrocks please for the immigrant-hating Mr. Trump," the petition reads. "No tri-color flag pins for White supremacists with Irish surnames such as Stephen Bannon. Let's show Trump how many Irish Americans and fellow Americans oppose his policies. Make your Irish ancestors smile." The petition had just over 5,000 signatures on Monday night.

Ireland is famous for its diaspora, especially in America where the iconography of anti-Irish sentiment is part of the popular culture. Thus the Taoiseach's nod to the controversy by promising to address the issue of Irish migration and the approximately 50,000 illegal Irish in the U.S. appears insufficient for his countrymen and women, who demanded the leader do more to challenge Trump's extreme policies.

The backlash is only the latest headache for the Taosieach.

For now, though, the Irish leader can enjoy his visit to America — or at least he can try while knowing that every photo-op he takes part in with the loathed Trump will only enrage his opponents and ensure a frosty reception when he returns to the Emerald Isle.