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Enda Kenny: I said Donald Trump's language was racist - not him

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been questioned by a major US network on why he has accepted an invitation to meet US President Donald Trump despite having "once called him 'racist and dangerous'".

During a four-minute interview with Eamon Javers on CNBC, Mr Kenny again attempted to clarify that he had called Mr Trump's comments racist, rather than Mr Trump himself.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage had also raised the issue during an RTE radio interview on Wednesday insisting that the Taoiseach should apologise when he visits the White House on Thursday.

"What I said was the language used by the president when he was a candidate was racist, I never said anything beyond that," Mr Kenny said in Washington.

"I'm responding to an invitation from the President of the United States and am very happy to do so. This is a tradition that has gone back very many years, indeed was enhanced by Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan many years ago.

"But it is not about me or the President - it's about the symbolic contribution that the Irish have made to America over 200 years and will continue to make so we want to work with the administration."

In May of last year, Mr Kenny agreed with a description of the then-Presidential candidate's comments as racist and dangerous made in the Dail, and added "there is an alternative to vote for".

Around the same time Mr Kenny was speaking in Washington, prominent Brexit campaigner Mr Farage also brought the 'racist and dangerous' comment up, during an interview with RTE Radio, saying the Taoiseach should apologise tomorrow "for saying vile things about him [Mr Trump] consistently during the campaign".

Mr Farage, who has positioned himself as a confidante of the US President, said that "Trump won't have forgotten" the Dail comments.

Mr Kenny wasn't pushed on the issue on CNBC, but has said in the past that he doesn't regret making the comments.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Kenny also reiterated that Ireland would not be looking for a special deal on immigration reform from the US for the 50,000 'undocumented' - but was hopeful of getting back to a situation where 10,000 J1 visas would be allocated to Ireland.

"We are not looking for a special deal in terms of the immigration reform, it has to be part of the overall immigration process," he said.

"We would like to see a far greater allocation of short-term visas for young people, like we had in the past."

He also commented on the difficulties posed by Brexit, and insisted that there would be no return to a hard border.

Irish Independent

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