herald

Monday 24 July 2017

Leo avoids mention of Irish visit during his call with Trump

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

US President Donald Trump has congratulated Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on his "great victory" and invited him to the White House for St Patrick's Day next year.

During an "introductory" phone call last night, Mr Trump said he looked forward to meeting the new Taoiseach in Washington next March.

However, the Herald understands there was no mention of the invitation issued by Mr Varadkar's predecessor Enda Kenny to Mr Trump to visit Ireland.

The president allowed members of the media to witness the first part of the call and photos from the Oval Office show him seated behind the Resolute desk while speaking to Mr Varadkar.

The call lasted just under 15 minutes, with topics ranging from climate change to Brexit.

Plight

Sources say Mr Varadkar sought to put much of the focus on the plight of the undocumented Irish in the US.

The Taoiseach said many of the illegal Irish in the US had originally travelled on legitimate documentation but for a variety of reasons now needed to regularise their situation.

"He said the situation needs to be addressed," a source said.

Mr Trump said: "We have so many people from Ireland in this country. I know so many of them, I feel I know all of them."

The president asked for an update on the Northern Ireland peace process and the situation regarding border controls between the Republic and the North.

In reply, Mr Varadkar said the Border is currently not an issue socially or economically, but the future is uncertain because of Brexit.

There was a brief mention of Doonbeg in Co Clare where Mr Trump owns a luxury hotel and golf course.

Mr Varadkar remarked that he understands it is a "very good golf course".

The Taoiseach also spoke to British prime minister Theresa May yesterday to discuss the talks aimed at restoring the power-sharing executive.

The phone call was described as "a useful exchange of information" by both sides.

Earlier this year, the new Fine Gael leader said he was against the idea of inviting Mr Trump to Ireland.

After Mr Kenny extended the initial invitation, Mr Varadkar said he was not sure "what purpose it would serve".

He added that, during Barack Obama's visit here in 2011, tens of thousands of people crammed College Green to cheer him.

"You wouldn't necessarily assume that's the kind of visit it would be," he said.

Mr Varadkar confirmed recently in the Dail that he was not planning to rescind the invitation, as it would be "totally inappropriate".

However, he said he would raise concerns about human rights and LGBTQ issues with Mr Trump and confirmed that he strongly opposed his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Sexist

Speaking last May, Mr Varadkar described previous remarks by then US presidential hopeful Mr Trump as "sexist" and "misogynistic".

He was speaking after Mr Kenny labelled some of the US billionaire's speeches "racist" and "dangerous".

"I think any reasonable person would agree some of the comments he's made are racist, particularly in relation to Latinos, and many of the things he has said are sexist and don't show a positive attitude towards women," Mr Varadkar told reporters at a book launch.

"But ultimately it is up to American citizens to determine who their president is."

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