herald

Thursday 23 March 2017

Kenny urged to cancel visit to white house in trump protest

Americans at Chicago O’Hare Airport protest against the ‘Muslim ban’ imposed by Donald Trump
Americans at Chicago O’Hare Airport protest against the ‘Muslim ban’ imposed by Donald Trump

There have been calls for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to cancel the traditional St Patrick's Day visit to the White House in the wake of Donald Trump's so-called Muslim ban.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said Mr Kenny should be "working to make sure that these policies are not enforced on Irish soil".

"President Trump does not share our values," he said. "Indeed, he is openly hostile to them. He and his team have made clear that he is unwilling to hear or even listen to discordant voices.

"In that context, the only thing a visit by the Taoiseach to the White House could achieve would be to present Ireland as a supine supporter of Trumpism."

Meanwhile, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone said the trip should be kept under "review". She said the Government should not wait until March 17 to make its views known on Mr Trump's controversial executive order.

It bans people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US. They are Syria Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Britons with dual citizenship were later made exempt from Donald Trump's controversial travel ban, the Foreign Office has confirmed. But UK dual citizens travelling to the United States directly from one of the banned countries will face extra checks.

Even Irish passport holders who have dual nationality in one of those countries will be refused entry.

Ms Zappone wants a review of long-standing US pre-clearance arrangements at Dublin and Shannon airports that enable US immigration officers to vet passengers before they board a plane from Ireland .

"If we do that now - review the arrangements - it will be sending a message," she said.

Ms Zappone, who is a native of Seattle, said the Cabinet should be prepared to tell the American government that US officials can no longer operate on Irish soil if people are being discriminated against.

Constitution

"I think the Irish people would be in favour of that, and cert- ainly the Irish-Americans would be favour of that as well," she said.

Ms Zappone said Ireland needs to determine whether the Constitution and the international treaties it has signed up to prohibit Trump's policies of discrimination.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan is due to travel to Washington for a series of meetings at which he will raise Mr Trump's stance on immigration.

"Irish people are concerned at the dramatic changes in the United States of America," said Mr Flanagan. "I look forward to visiting Washington next Tuesday. I will be engaging with particular reference to immigration and Irish immigration.

"I believe we all have obligations to the international community and, in particular, to the Geneva Convention.

"I think it's important in these circumstances that we fully observe the letter of the Geneva Convention."

Asked about the situations at Dublin and Shannon airports, Mr Flanagan said it was a matter for the US administration and the Department of Transport.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Shane Ross declined to comment, but his Independent Alliance colleague Kevin 'Boxer' Moran has backed the idea of a legal review.

"We have a moral duty to speak out. I find events that are unfolding in America over the last 24 hours to be deeply disturbing, a view shared by our EU partners," said Mr Moran.

"It is my view that there should be no facilitation of such orders."

Draconian

Fianna Fail's foreign affairs spokesman Darragh O'Brien said the Taoiseach should take-up the annual invitation to the White House because "not talking to people serves no purpose".

"The restrictions the new administration has put in place seem to be quiet draconian," he said.

"The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach must use the opportunity to raise the concerns not just of our own citizens, but those of any open, democratic country."

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said the White House trip should go ahead, but "it can't just be about smiles and shamrocks".

Health Minister Simon Harris described the US policy as "deeply troubling, upsetting, unjust and discriminatory".

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