Poor Michael Martin. Barring an unlikely return to the White House before his time as Taoiseach is up, Covid has missed his last chance to enter the Oval Office.
I will love St. Patrick’s Day one on one. The US President will say wonderful things about her in front of the cameras when the cloverleaf bowl is handed over. Each year the Taoiseach asks the President (unless it is Donald Trump) to visit Ireland. And every year they talk about the undocumented Irish stranded in the US, the Good Friday Agreement and what a great country we have.
On one pre-Covid occasion, Trump almost ended all the palaver, sparking panic in the Irish camp. on top of each other, In one of my tiring moral moods, I foolishly tried to stop Enda Kenny from kneeling to Trump, but he got nothing. The magic of the White House beckoned.
Last year, Micheál was keen to leave, but the White House refused to convene a meeting in the middle of the pandemic. Last week Covid did for him again.
I wonder if it ever occurred to Micheál to ask someone else to take his place? Loyal Tánaiste Leo would surely have happily snatched away from his St. Patrick’s Day duties in Chile by showing up in Washington in the national interest.
Eamon Ryan, just around the corner in New York, would have welcomed the opportunity to lecture the President on how he solved Ireland’s energy problem by telling people to slow their cars while at the same time promoting speeding laws dropped.
Even Mary Lou, who was hanging out in Washington on Thursday and might have had a loose end, could have assured Joe Biden that Sinn Féin had never been soft on Putin — and good luck to anyone who’s relying on the party’s archives to prove that to claim the opposite.
The US Democrats should try. They could potentially erase all traces of Lyndon Johnson’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Or Bill Clinton’s petty crimes.
But no, Micheál opted for a painful encounter with carefully pre-programmed “spontaneous” dialogue for the cameras. Micheál spoke of Biden’s “leadership of like-minded democracies”. Biden praised Ireland’s “amazing” reception for Ukrainian refugees.
And then they had a private discussion that seemed to be a very important meeting to cement the special relationship that we have with the United States.
Micheál’s determination to hold a Zoom meeting is understandable, but the value of these annual get-togethers is questionable. The standard response to any challenge is that they give Ireland unique access to the world’s most powerful man. No other small nation enjoys such a privilege.
Maybe. Or does it benefit two individual politicians in office? Does it offer the US President a chance to nail down the Irish-American vote while giving the Taoiseach a rare chance to appear statesmanlike? Both people benefit, but Ireland?
Biden makes a good line in sentiment. He loves Ireland, he keeps telling us. He will be in Brussels this week but has not found time to accommodate us since his election.
Biden’s love for Ireland is not reflected in his political initiatives. Last year his drive to raise corporate taxes on larger companies to a global minimum of 15 per cent had potentially dangerous implications for Ireland. The long-term impact of the increase on the US multinationals operating here could have done a lot of harm to the Irish economy. We didn’t like it. He did it anyway.
An equally worrying complication in Irish-American relations is the undocumented Irish getting sore. Thousands of Irish people in the US can never return home for fear of not being able to rejoin their families in the US. In many cases, their limbo status has dragged on for a generation. They are based there, but all our attempts to legalize their positions have been rebuffed by the United States.
It has been unresolved for several decades. A priority of the Irish government is being ignored by a United States government. Nobody in the US is listening. So much for our special relationship.
Access is one thing, delivery is another. The jamboree in the White House on St. Patrick’s Day should not only be a widely visible political event from which both parties benefit. It shows no concrete results for the two nations involved.
In the meantime, we wish the Taoiseach a speedy recovery. Imagine if Leo had made his way to Washington DC and volunteered to fill the gap. This could have permanently damaged Micheál’s health.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/micheal-martin-missed-out-in-america-just-like-generations-of-undocumented-irish-41466389.html Micheál Martin missed something in America – as did generations of undocumented Irishmen