After Brexit, Ireland could be Trump's closest ally in the EU â" that's why we should welcome him with open arms
Before Donald Trump visits Ireland, it is worth remembering that Irish-American relations are historic, unique and have survived the test of several centuries.
After spending eight weeks touring Ireland in 1771, Benjamin Franklin, one of the United Statesâ founding fathers, proclaimed that the ââpatriotsââ of Ireland were all on ââthe American side of the questionââ.
Then, in 1962, President John F Kennedy praised those ââgallantââ Irishmen who fought during the American civil war and the Irish community that contributed to American life.
On the annual St Patrickâs Day visit to the White House, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the US helped build modern Ireland and gave thanks for accommodating millions of Irish diaspora. President Donald Trump responded by saying he ââloved the Irishââ and described the ââshared bondsââ between the two countries.
Yet the negative reaction to the news that President Trump will visit Ireland for two days in November gives a false impression that there is deep-rooted conflict between the two nations. And during a period of significant global challenges and unprecedented uncertainty concerning Brexit, Irish-American relations must not be overshadowed by any individuals or administrations.
Already, two ministers have announced that they will boycott any state events with Trump in November, citing the presidentâs morality, his comments on women and children and his controversial policies such as the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.
Over 30,000 people have expressed an interest in or said they would attend an anti-Trump protest in Dublin on 10 November â" a far cry from the thousands who turned out to greet President Obama in central Dublin in 2011.
There are several reasons we need close US-Irish relations. One is Northern Ireland. Many people forget that senator George Mitchell, the first US envoy to Northern Ireland in 1995, played a seminal role in mediating between different sides in the Northern Irish civil conflict and the eventual signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Twenty years on, the situation in Northern Ireland is precarious. The US special envoy to Northern Ireland remains unfilled under Donald Trumpâs presidency. The economic fallout from Brexit, the threat of a hard border between the South and North of Ireland, and the absence of government in Stormont over political differences threaten the longevity of the Good Friday Agreement.
Close relations between the Irish and American governments will enable Taoiseach Varadkar to discuss the seriousness of the situation in Northern Ireland and put pressure on President Trump to fill the position.
Irelandâs trade with the UK, worth around â¬65bn every year and 400,000 jobs, is set to be hit the most by Brexit. Therefore, strong Irish-American relations are essential if Ireland is to continue to reap the rewards that US investment offers the Irish economy; already, 700 US companies have investment in Ireland, employing around 150,000. Reassurance, however, has come from Irish Ambassador to America, Dan Mulhall, who expects that ââthat US companies who feel a need to have a base within the European Union would see Ireland as a more attractive option because perhaps Britain may be less attractive on account of Brexit.ââ
In terms of diplomacy, Brexit provides a unique opportunity for Ireland to expand its relevance in US-EU relations. After Brexit, Ireland will be the only English-speaking nation left in the EU and will likely replace the UK as the European country with the strongest relationship with the US.