Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Adams praises Enda Kenny's remarks to Donald Trump on undocumented Irish in US

Taoiseach hailed those who continue to work for reconciliation in Northern Ireland

Gerry Adams has praised the Taoiseach Enda Kenny for the tone of his comments on Capitol Hill.

The Sinn Fein president said Mr Kenny was "on the button" when he appealed to President Donald Trump to support the Irish undocumented.

The republican, who was a guest at Speaker Paul Ryan's St Patrick's lunch along with Mr Kenny and Mr Trump, said the challenge was to turn words into action.

"The Taoiseach's remarks were on the button," he said.

"We now need to build upon that.

"The St Patrick's festival here in the US is a great period of celebration of Irishness and it's very important."

Read more

Donald Trump tells Enda Kenny he will visit Ireland during presidency 

Mr Adams held meetings with the Friends of Ireland Caucus as well as discussions with individual congressmen and senators throughout Thursday.

He said addressing the needs of the undocumented was key.

"We made representations to the folks on Capitol Hill and I intend writing to the president about that," he said.

"It's clearly a huge issue, not just for the Irish. We are from Ireland so our particular interest is in our own folks, but the immigration policy which the president elect promised, we would like to see that tweaked in the upcoming period.

"And I know there is very strong support for that right across the USA."

Mr Kenny held a meeting with the president in the Oval Office during a packed day of St Patrick's engagements in Washington.

Afterwards they were hosted by Speaker Paul Ryan at his traditional St Patrick's lunch on Capitol Hill.

Speaking at the annual event, Mr Trump said he "loved Ireland and the people of Ireland".

"The people of Ireland and the people of the United States have stuck together through good times and bad times," he said.

"Over many centuries we have built a bond that thrives, inspires and endures and with us it's going to be closer than ever before.

"So as we celebrate our shared history and our enduring friendship let us commit ourselves to working together, as we will, to build on that bond to the benefit of our citizens for many more generations to come."

Mr Kenny held a meeting with the president in the Oval Office during a packed day of St Patrick's engagements in Washington.

Afterwards they were hosted by Speaker Paul Ryan at his traditional St Patrick's lunch on Capitol Hill.

Speaking at the annual event, Mr Trump said he "loved Ireland and the people of Ireland".

"The people of Ireland and the people of the United States have stuck together through good times and bad times," he said.

"Over many centuries we have built a bond that thrives, inspires and endures and with us it's going to be closer than ever before.

"So as we celebrate our shared history and our enduring friendship let us commit ourselves to working together, as we will, to build on that bond to the benefit of our citizens for many more generations to come."

During the lunch, Mr Kenny made an impassioned plea to the president to help the 50,000 "undocumented" Irish who live in the United States without legal permission.

The Taoiseach has long campaigned for a legal pathway to be opened up to allow the undocumented to obtain legal residency without fear of deportation.

The issue has drawn intense focus on this year's visit, given the president's hard-line stance on immigration.

After the White House meeting, Mr Kenny said he and the president had agreed to work constructively on the issue.

Later, at the speaker's lunch, the Taoiseach stressed the important role played by so many Irish people through US history.

"This is what I said to your predecessor on a number of occasions - we would like this to be sorted," he told the president.

"It would remove a burden off so many people that they can stand out in the light and say 'now I am free to contribute to America, as I know I can'."

Mr Kenny also hailed those who continue to work for reconciliation in Northern Ireland, name-checking lunch guests Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley jnr and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

Turning to the president, the Taoiseach said: "We want to protect this peace process and I know you are going to work with us in that context also."

There were lighter moments during the lunch, which was held before the Taoiseach's traditional presentation of a bowl of shamrock to the president back at the White House.

"They say the Irish have the capacity to change everything," joked Mr Kenny.

"I just saw the President of the United States read from his script ... entirely."

The earlier Oval Office meeting between Mr Kenny and Mr Trump was the new president's first face-to-face encounter with a leader of one of the 27 EU states that will remain in the union post-Brexit.

Mr Trump has been a vocal critic of the EU, having praised the UK's decision to leave, and the prospects of securing a bilateral transatlantic trade deal between Europe and the US appear to have receded under the new administration.

Mr Kenny said there was still the potential for negotiating new trade arrangements between the US and EU.

"Ireland will always be a friend of America, the European Union will always be a friend of America and that cooperation between these two most developed economies will be to the mutual benefit of millions of people in Europe and the United States," he said.

The meeting had the potential to be an awkward one, given that during the election campaign Mr Kenny accused Mr Trump of using "racist and dangerous" language.

Afterwards, the Taoiseach batted away a media question on whether the issue was raised during the bilateral discussions.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph