Should we really roll out the red carpet again?

Patricia Feehily


Patricia Feehily

Should we really roll out the red carpet again?

AS if we didn’t have enough to bother us in these heady June days! Just when we thought we could set up the barbecue and watch the Euros and the Olympics for sunlit weeks on end, along comes Donald Trump uninvited and places us in a right pickle, especially here in the Mid West where jobs have to be protected in Doonbeg.

Suddenly the much vaunted ‘cead mile fáilte’ tag feels like a millstone. Maybe it’s time we dumped it.

Now, I don’t like Donald Trump’s rhetoric or what he stands for anymore than most people who take their cues from the liberal left while espousing the American dream, but on this issue, I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place. I’d much prefer if this surprise visit did not take place at all, but then I’ve said that about a lot of visitors who called on me unexpectedly over the years when I was looking a mess and the house was in an even worse state. But I brought them in anyway and made a big fuss of them, because my mother also told me to be nice to people in my own house – even if I couldn’t stand the sight of them outside it.

Donald’s visit, however, is putting my graciousness to the test. I keep asking myself what my mother would have done in the circumstances. But I needn’t even ask. I know that, mannerly to the end, she’d have made him feel at home if he had called – just as she did with every other chancer who ever darkened her door. It’s a terrible burden.

But really, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. We welcomed ex President Bush in the wake of the appallingly named ‘shock and awe’ bombardment of Baghdad and, apart from a few protesters, it didn’t bother our collective conscience in the least. Most of our ancestors were waving Union Jacks when Queen Victoria paid a visit, with the Famine still fresh in their memories. Now we’re in a tizzy, wondering what is the right thing to do. Should we ignore the visit or should we roll out the red carpet for one who may soon be the leader of the free world, with the infamous red button within arm’s reach? Or who might pull out of Doonbeg faster than you can shout ‘Fore’!

But this is not a State visit. He is a private citizen and despite all our fears, he may never be anything other than a private citizen.

We don’t even know why he is coming at this time, apart from inspecting his small potatoes in West Clare. We suspect that he has been advised that a visit to the ould sod will soften the hearts of Irish American voters, but if Irish America is that easily swayed, then we all deserve Donald Trump. In that case the least he deserves from us is a bit of courtesy.

Anyway, as far as I can see, we wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place if we weren’t such hypocrites with such disastrous colonial and multi-national hang-ups. Despite all our bragging, we really don’t have much self-confidence, at least not enough to be able to treat the proposed Trump visit as no big deal. You won’t see the Scots, who are also in line for the dubious honour of a visit from Trump, dithering over whether they should be cringing or celebrating the occasion. We’re different. If we’re not bowing and scraping and looking for approval, we’re up on our high horse wrestling with our integrity and our burdensome ‘cead mile failte’ image. Who exactly are we trying to impress?

We’re not helped, of course, by the frenzied media, already suffering sunstroke from a premature silly season. They’d like nothing better than to see Biden and Trump advancing on each other on a golf course with clubs swinging in rage – and Enda in the middle pleading for a bit of decorum.

They’d get a right kick in the teeth though if Donald Trump flew in to West Clare and left without anyone being the wiser. Then we’d all probably be mightily affronted.

For all that, the only school of thought that really irks me is the one that says it might be unwise to offend a future President of the USA.

Why? He’s hardly going to ‘shock and awe’ us, is he? Although we’re easily ‘awed’! He might, however, build a wall sometime in the future to keep us out of the US.

That kind of cute hoorism never got us anyplace. It’s time we grew our own backbone and remembered, especially in this year of commemoration that while we benefited a lot from Irish American ties over the years, they weren’t always there when we needed them. We had to find our own feet when Woodrow Wilson left us out of the Versailles talks when we were trying to unyoke ourselves from Great Britain, while he and his allies carved up Europe after World War I and enabled other new democracies to emerge.

Our delegate to Versailles, Sean T O’Kelly, not only had to find his own feet but, cringe, he also had to find accommodation for himself and his entourage in Paris while he was knocking in vain at the door of Versailles.

At the end of the day, the Trump visit is nothing more than a diversion and one way or the other, is of little significance to our lives.

But if, for one minute, I thought the golden touch would rub off him, then rhetoric be damned, but I’d be organising a whole troupe of comely maidens myself, to dance a hornpipe for him when he lands.