Driven by hatred of the new American president, Irish leaders, activists, and followers are calling for a boycott of St.Patrick’s Day in the White House by Irish politicians.
Two leaders, in particular, have been singled out: Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein President, and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny.
Those who are seeking the ban are incensed over the barring of refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
They are entitled to their anger, and I share it. America has gone into a nativist, defensive crouch which ill fits the generous open country I have made my home in for almost thirty-five years. But boycotting the president is a waste of time.
Besides, these protesters are quite selective. Where was this kind of outrage when Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea when he ordered precision bombing in Aleppo of children’s hospitals? Trump so far has done nothing of that nature.
Also, Sinn Fein leaders have met the Royal Family without significant protest. If you are talking about an institution with bad reputations in Ireland, the Royal Family tops them all.
Let's deal with the Adams furor first. For centuries Irish nationalists dreamt of a day that an American president would intervene in Ireland. De Valera, for instance, spent years trying to bring it about. His efforts included living over here, but he never cracked the inner circle at Woodrow Wilson’s White House. Indeed they would not even let him into the Democratic convention to speak.
Small nations like Ireland were expendable items back then, the Versailles Peace Conference after Word War 1 refused to even consider Irish involvement. The world was indifferent at best.
Throughout the Northern troubles, America mostly continued that indifference.
Irish Americans wanted the US to become involved as a peace broker and enormous amounts of effort was expended on achieving that to no avail.
I remember being with an Irish delegation in the late 80s who met the U.S. State Department officer overseeing Ireland. He told us the only paper he read was the Daily Telegraph, a British paper known for it's almost racist attitude to Ireland.
He also laughably said he got the Irish beat only because it was alphabetically close to Iceland which was a NATO member and was much more important. I remember Dr. Bob Linnon of the Irish American Unity Conference becoming more and more angry as the State Department representative trod all over the importance of the Irish issue. Bob left rather than lose his temper altogether
That gives you some sense of the scope of the struggle to get the U.S. involved and the journey that had to be undertaken.
Finally, it happened in 1992 with the unlikely figure of an ex-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton taking center stage.
The rest is history, but an absolutely key element in the peace process was getting Gerry Adams permission to come to America and later on to the White House.
Hard fought and hard won the American involvement is now part of the underpinning of the peace, a vital component. With issues such as Brexit and a hard border restoration possible, we may need American influence more than ever,
All of which make no sense of the idea that the Sinn Fein leader should now throw away that access. Irish America would be right to feel extremely undervalued if Sinn Fein did.
Ditto for Taoiseach Kenny who is also facing demands he not show up. There is no other country on earth which has it’s own day written into the White House appointment book every year. To refuse to continue that tradition is to betray all the leaders who will come after him.
America is still the only superpower. Ireland's economic, immigration and cultural ties are vitally important for the country. Cheap talk of boycotting helps no cause, no ambition, no relationship, and would be disastrous long term. There is no justification for not going.