independent

Saturday 16 December 2017

Kenny hammers Trump with Irish virtues and wins over the world

By david looby

Enda Kenny with President Trump at the White House.
Enda Kenny with President Trump at the White House.

WITH a twinkle in his eye and a steeliness to his lilting Irish tone, Taoiseach Enda Kenny won over hundreds of thousands of new fans during his St Patrick's Day address to President Donald Trump at the White House.

With mounting pressure on him to announce his retirement date, Kenny had started to look as battle weary as beleaguered Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, but he was on top form with Trump in the White House as he skilfully impressed upon him how important Irish people have been to the evolution of America.

Political marmite in Ireland, Enda Kenny is a polarising figure, in part because maybe he's just a little bland and lacks backbone in the big fights.

Part sleeveen, part socialite, he is respected on the international stage and accompanied by his wife Fionnuala, they make a mean team. I remember meeting him during an election campaign and he started waltzing with my colleague, a female. It would have been interesting to see him sweeping The Donald off his feet, but he did send him reeling with some deft verbal one-twos.

Playing to a captive audience, many with Irish blood coursing through their veins including Vice President Mike Pence, Mr Kenny was in his element. He sucked up the pressure of the occasion and his own political woes and hit a home run in front of millions of people.

For his speech about Irish immigration was important in so many ways. On an emotional level it spoke a truth which is harboured in the hearts of 50,000 plus Irish living and working in America. Many have been separated from their families, including at the time of the death of one of their parents or a sibling as returning home would mean the end of a way of life they had dreamed of and worked hard for over many years.

In telling Mr Trump that he holds the 'future of America, and indeed the world, in your hands', along with some other soundbites, he buttered the big man up heralding the importance of the 'great' country that is America, before slowly roasting him.

After handing over the traditional bowl of shamrock, Mr Kenny thanked Trump for 'giving so much of his time' to help celebrate St Patrick's legacy as 'the patron of immigrants'. He appealed to the President to take a more favourable view of immigrants.

He said: 'Ireland came to America, because deprived of liberty, opportunity, safety and even food itself, we believed. Four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp we were the wretched refuse on the teeming shore. We believed in the shelter of America, in the compassion of America, in the opportunity of America. We came and became Americans.

'We lived the words of JFK long before he uttered them - we asked not what America could do for us but what we could do for America. And we still do. We want to give and not to take.'

Mr Kenny said Irish immigrants built bridges and roads, protected the public as firefighters and police officers, entertained and cared for the sick in hospitals.

He spoke of Mr Trump's lovely family and having invited the President to Ireland - an invitation he duly accepted - the Taoiseach hammered home the need to treat Irish immigrants with the respect they deserve and allow them to continue working in a 'great' country.

In doing so he has bought time and who knows could be around next St Patrick's Day in the White House.

Wexford People

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