SF invited president to dinner, then opposed visit to Republic
The past four years with Donald J Trump have certainly been “different” and the next four years may be equally so, albeit in a different way. Nevertheless, as his presidency draws to a close and as the row over the Capitol Hill incursion rumbles on, I become ever more convinced that I just don’t fully understand American politics. And neither do I really understand Donald Trump.
In November 1995, Gerry Adams addressed a Sinn Fein fundraising dinner in a New York Hotel. Guests had to pay a $200 entry fee to hear him and guests were asked to give donations to Friends of Sinn Fein.
One of those guests was Donald Trump and, during his speech, Gerry Adams joked about playing the “Trump card” before shaking hands with the rich businessman. Film footage of the dinner also shows Trump grinning and waving to the Friends of Sinn Fein audience after shaking hands with Adams.
Trump was obviously valued and appreciated by Sinn Fein, because they gave him a seat beside the podium, along with such notables as the former actress Bianca Jagger, film-maker Michael Moore and Senator Tom Hayden.
That’s the same Tom Hayden who popped into the Bogside in 1976 to visit Martin McGuinness, accompanied by his wife, “Hanoi Jane” Fonda.
To enter the Friends of Sinn Fein event, Donald Trump would have had to walk past protests from the relatives of Catholics who had been shot, beaten and exiled by the IRA after the organisation declared its first ceasefire in August 1994.
Four months after the warm exchange between Trump and Adams, the Provisional IRA exploded a bomb in London, killing two people, injuring many more and causing £150m-worth of damage.
From time to time, Trump spoke of his love for Britain, but that Sinn Fein fundraiser revealed a personal and political shallowness and, in truth, I don’t know what he really believes.
Yet, in 2020, more than 74 million people voted for Donald Trump. In fact, he increased his vote, which was up from around 63 million in 2016.
But you don’t win elections by getting more votes this time than last time. He had increased his vote, but he had energised his opponents even more and Biden got 81 million votes as against just short of 66 million for Hilary Clinton in 2016. There’s a lesson there for political parties around the world.
Of course, Donald Trump and millions of Americans believe that the election was stolen.
Hence the slogan “Stop the Steal” and, in fairness, it’s not the first election where there have been allegations of electoral corruption by the Democrats.
Back in 1960, there was a widespread belief that the odious Mayor Richard Daly, the Irish-American mayor of Chicago, fixed the presidential election in Illinois for John F Kennedy.
Kennedy took the state by just 9,000 votes, or 0.18%, and it was claimed that Daley secured the wafer-thin majority through stealing or packing ballot boxes in Chicago and through organised personation. Today, Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein would probably prefer to forget that warm welcome for Donald Trump at their New York fundraiser. In any case, such was the ingratitude of Sinn Fein that they opposed a presidential visit to Ireland by the very same Donald Trump.
Time will tell what Donald Trump’s legacy really is and it is wise to keep in mind the law of unintended consequences.
However, in the meantime, two things are already clear.
The chaotic incursion at the Capitol has certainly exposed the hypocrisy of those who rushed to condemn it, having been reluctant to condemn the episodes of burning and looting in a number of American cities over the past year.
Ironically, that burning and looting probably contributed to some previously undecided voters casting their vote for Trump.
Secondly, the reaction by Twitter in banning Donald Trump has also exposed a threat to free speech, which is one of the bedrocks of a free society.
US Democrats and the Hollywood glitterati have welcomed the ban, but genuine democrats have recognised the danger.
Is Twitter to become the arbiter of what is acceptable and what is not? That is a frightening prospect — and the power of Twitter is as great in Britain as it is in America.