Taoiseach quickly backtracks on offer last May to chastise President-Elect Trump for ‘racism
By Adam Shaw
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended the controversial comments made by President- elect Donald Trump during his election campaign. He acknowledged that certain things said in the run-up to 8 November were done so in the “heat of battle” and that now was time to “heal the wounds”.
In May, he said Mr Trump’s views were “racist and dangerous”. Following the result, Mr Kenny was quick to commend Mr Trump on his victory and has already secured a date for their first meeting. He said he believed the relationship between Ireland and America would “continue to prosper” and offered his “sincere congratulations” to the President-elect.
He also paid tribute to defeated Hillary Clinton, calling her a “friend to Ireland”, and acknowledged her campaign efforts.
“On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I am pleased to offer our sincere congratulations to Donald J Trump on his election as the 45th president of the United States,” he said in a statement. “Ireland and the United States have enjoyed a very close and warm relationship for many generations and I am confident that under his leadership our bilateral relations will continue to prosper.
“Also, we think today of Hillary Clinton, a friend to Ireland who fought such a tough campaign. “We are all acutely conscious of the particular responsibility of the United States for leadership and engagement across the globe in our endeavours to address shared challenges.
“I look forward to working with the new administration in the time ahead in the cause of international peace and security.”
Mr Kenny also said the government will continue to work towards immigration reform in the US.
“I also intend to work closely with the new administration and newly elected United States Congress to pursue comprehensive immigration reform, an issue that is so important to tens of thousands of Irish people who are making a major contribution to America,” he said.
Mr Trump has already extended an invitation to the Irish premier – asking him to visit on St Patrick’s Day in 2017. The tradition of Taoisigh visiting the White House on 17 March looks set to continue and Mr Kenny will be one of the first to formally meet the new President when he is inaugurated next year. The cordiality between the two men didn’t come as a surprise given the need to maintain good relations but it is a far cry from Mr Kenny’s previous comments about Mr Trump. In the run-up to the election he called his views “racist and dangerous”.
“If Trump’s comments are racist and dangerous, which they are, there is an alternative to vote for,” he said. On his comments about Muslims, he said: “Comments made in the United States are not acceptable to me or to people in this country. “Free speech is one thing. The comments made are unacceptable.”
The Taoiseach is not alone in changing tack now that Mr Trump has been elected. Several high-ranking politicians who had previously condemned the billionaire have since congratulated him on his victory and recognised the need to work together.
Prime Minister Theresa May said building on the special UK-US relationship was a priority while Bertie Ahern expressed the need for a “love-in” with Mr Trump’s people as soon as possible. Despite explaining that some of Mr Trump’s comments were said “in the heat of battle”, Mr Kenny noted that this particular US election was the most “unedifying” he had witnessed. Mr Trump was elected to become the 45th President of the United States last week after a string of successes in key “swing states”.
His campaign was dotted with controversy; from calling for a ban on Muslims entering America to a video emerging of him making inappropriate comments about women. He will succeed Barack Obama – a man he called the “worst President” in US history – on 20 January 2017.