Eastwood to boycott the Trump White House

This statement was released yesterday by the SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood on the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. Both Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster have pledged to continue on engagement with the Trump administration.

He says;

“As things fall apart, the centre ground is struggling to know what is worth holding on to. Mainstream politics remains uneasy and unsure as to its place, its power and its purpose.

“Donald Trump has swept in to fill this vacuum. Trump’s victory was anti-establishment, anti-immigrant and most particularly anti-globalisation.

“This morning there will be the easy and understandable temptation to turn to anger at the ignorance, misogyny and racism which has fed this victory. I am conscious that this is particularly the feeling amongst a huge swathe of young people, not only in America, but across the world.

“Instead of anger though, I think it would be better for us all if we displayed the softer sentiment of sadness. It would be better if we reflect on and react to this result and ensure that his victory and vision is not one which endures.

“Trump’s was not so much a victory of right over left, it was a victory of fanatical and fantasy absolutism over a more considered, coherent and kinder politics. This is increasingly the choice that western electorates now face.

It is for this reason I have said that I will not attend a Trump White House. I choose to stand by a very different set of values than those displayed by this man.

“I will understand if those in government, North and South, feel a duty of office to attend. However, I feel it is important that as an Irish leader I take a stand, even if only small and only symbolic, for the kind of politics which we continue to believe in.

“I will continue to work with our many friends across America. Trump’s presidency will not stop that engagement with business and political figures. It will not stop that special bond of friendship and history which will endure beyond the Trump presidency.”

I get why people feel so annoyed at Trump and his politics. I often argued that he was not really a Republican, rather a populist, who would say anything and do anything that would advance his position.

Yet, after the dust settled yesterday morning I realised the American people had sent a message and we always intending to send that message. That message should be not just heard, but understood by everybody if we are to avoid future elections such as this one.

Irish leaders have long had connections with the USA, the traditional meeting on St Patricks Day in the White House being one of them. I am at sea as to what this course of action achieves. Boycotting the democratically elected leader of American people is surely a retrograde step, when the SDLP’s own history has demonstrated the value of engagement between folks with whom we disagree.

What about other countries? Do we ignore China, where the Executive are opening an office and human rights abuses are well documented? What about places in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia and their treatment of women?

I appreciate that Colum is not arguing for a general boycott of the USA and he recognises its small place in the bigger picture, but Trump is the elected leader of the American people for the next four years. I am not happy about it, I respect the reasons why Eastwood is not happy about it, but Irish Nationalism should take the few opportunities we get to engage with the American institutions when we can. As the former Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney observed when he was criticised for being close to Reagan “nobody can energise the American system of government like the President can.”

Like re-tweets on Twitter, a meeting is not an endorsement.

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  • Neil Foss

    Colum Eastwood is so inconsequential and irrelevant that he must engage in this sort of stunt to get anyone to take any notice of him at all.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Surely these visits to the US are seen as nothing more than publicity stunts. Why give Trump even an iota’s more publicity while he unapologetically uses pseudo-apartheid anti-Muslim rhetoric for political capital?

    How much inward investment do these visits bring in anyway. Our executive has had to invest in American firms so they stay here, a lot of the time at a loss. We’re their foreign investors.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Reminds me of the Skibereen Eagle vowing to keep an eye on the Csar or Russia.

  • file

    Exactly the analogy I was going to make. Has Eastwood even been invited to the White House? It is difficult to boycott something you are not invited to in the first place. Also his beard is problematic.

  • Completely agree. Eastwood is behaving like a Students’ Union President at a poor university, rather than a political leader. I’m very, very disappointed in him.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Who can beat the old charmer:

  • Zig70

    Good on Colum, the only thing, I would maybe caveat it with not attending unless it is for targeted discussion or progression.

  • billypilgrim1

    “Why give Trump even an iota’s more publicity…”

    Yes, let’s deny the President of the United States the PR boost he’d get from meeting Colum Eastwood. That’ll show him.

    I read this post with sadness. I have hopes for Eastwood as a leader, but he’s showing his callowness and making a fool of himself with this nonsense.

  • Reb Shiel

    Like Chris Rock reflected on Jada Pincket Smith’s decision to boycott last year’s Oscars “It’s like me boycotting Rhianna’s panties…I wasn’t invited in the first place.”

  • billypilgrim1

    Visits to the White House are never really about “discussion or progression”. They’re about access to power.

    Someone needs to tell Colum that politics is about power, and if you’re going to cut yourself off from access to the most powerful office on earth – an access you’re incredibly privileged to have – then it had better be for a good reason. This is just self-righteous, virtue-signalling, latte-fuelled pique.

  • Chris Spratt

    It’s quite right, Trump is to be held in nothing but contempt and to engage with him only validates his world view further.

  • Granni Trixie

    He’s showing a lack of political experience.

  • hgreen

    Another pathetic effort by the SDLP to appear relevant. Surely a large part of politics is talking to people you don’t like.

    The SDLP support laws that prevent women having full control over their own bodies. I call that misogyny.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Older politicians have engaged in more active boycotts.
    Abstentionism and Rotating Ministers. People have boycotted The Sun for almost half a century because it defiled the memory of Hillsborough victims.

    Choosing to boycott an event is a legitimate act of political expression.

  • billypilgrim1

    True, the boycott is a powerful and vital tool of political activism. That’s not in doubt. But it’s one that needs to be used wisely and effectively. Sadly, that’s not the case in this instance.

  • billypilgrim1

    His world-view just got validated by the American electorate.

    You may not like the fact that the American electorate voted for Trump, but you really need to respond to the fact that they did with a little more humility and a little less arrogance.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Of course the boycott is not going to have an effect at this stage, but it certainly will keep Sinn Féin on their toes come St Patrick’s Day.

    Cozying up to a political demagogue and getting crumbs from international investors that to some extent Stormont has to pay for anyway is not going to continue to be seen as the higher ground for long.

    Routines come into question after a while.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think it can offer the SDLP a good chance to be inquisitive about the effectiveness of these visits for job creation here rather than as PR stunts.

    The fact is that if having one less face from Northern Ireland is a little black mark against Trump’s demagoguery then so be it.

    If Northern Ireland is getting no jobs out of these things that we don’t have to pay for anyway, then surely these are merely events to add local politicians to a long list of Trump’s ego-strokers.

  • billypilgrim1

    On St Patrick’s Day Gerry and Marty will be smiling for photos with their old friend Donald. The SDLP will be out of sight and out of mind.

    Having a direct line to the White House is strategically vital for Irish nationalism, as a restraining influence on the British government. John Hume was instrumental in building Irish nationalism’s political alliances in Washington – his successor sadly underestimates the significance of these links.

  • Chris Spratt

    Aye, well evidently the American electorate is terminally stupid, arrogance is the only natural response.

  • billypilgrim1

    These events aren’t about jobs. The jobs stuff is just packaging, a bonus, if even that. They’re about political power, and access to it. We’re incredibly privileged that the most powerful office on earth allocates one day a year to us – few other nations are so privileged. Colum Eastwood doesn’t appear to understand this, which is a pity.

  • billypilgrim1

    An opinion widely held.

    On the losing side.

    If they’re so stupid, how come they won?

    If those who self-identify as intelligent really are so smart, how come they lost so badly?

  • Chris Spratt

    Stupid people vote?

  • Kevin Breslin

    What is the appeal of being associated with Donald Trump?
    What message does it really send to devil’s advocate playing unionists who might ponder Irish unity to see Sinn Féin talk about an Ireland of Equals in these meetings?

    Would it harm Sinn Féin’s corporate interests in the Friends of Sinn Féin to undermine Trump’s agitprop and demagoguery? Happy to get donations from big American corporates who basically pay Trump to say these anti-migrant and anti-Islam soundbites?

    You say it’s a restraining influence on the British government … but it’s restrained them from what? If the British government has to fork out the bill to subsidize an airport through the block grant to get Americans to come here … I say that’s a rather pathetic accomplishment for Irish nationalism Sinn Féin is getting from these events.

    Sure Trump’s a “World Leader” but do our local politicians go out of their way to get associated with Xi Jinping, or Vladimir Putin or even Angela Merkel?

  • It would’ve been a bit of an awkward climb down if he didn’t stick to his snub of Donald Trump, plus he can purport himself as principled by doubling down. I’m sure the SDLP party faithful will be delighted with their wee Colum taking a stand.

    Ultimately, however, I don’t think the American President will lose much sleep at night (given that he already gets so little) knowing that some Eastwood fella is boycotting his presidency.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Political Power?

    What Political Power does Sinn Féin really get with Irish people with their BIRGing of Trump?

    How’s it going to deliver anything to Irish people here now?

    How’s it increasing support for Irish unity or any other Sinn Féin policy for example?

    Does Sinn Féin need Donald Trump to avoid its own decline to political obscurity?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Funny how this would compare against DUP boycotts of any Papal visit.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Relevant enough for you to mention twice I see.

  • On the fence!

    Could be worse, just think the job that wee Nicola has ahead of her!

    Her snub was much more vindictive, her pedestal much higher, and the stakes are very much greater.

    Although initial reports seem to suggest that she’s started the climb down already.

    It’s hard to beat an early start for a long journey!

  • I honestly wouldn’t be surprised.

  • billypilgrim1

    And are able to put together an electoral majority?

    Meanwhile, the smart guys can’t?

  • billypilgrim1

    “What is the appeal of being associated with Donald Trump?”

    (Spoiler alert) He’ll be the President of the United States.

    “…do our local politicians go out of their way to get associated with Xi Jinping, or Vladimir Putin or even Angela Merkel?”

    None of these are President of the United States.

  • Granni Trixie

    But in this particular case he has made himself and the SDLP a hostage to fortune. He might have been better reeling back a bit when Trump got in by using a form of words less exlicit to give him time to reflect with others on was this the best strategy for the Party.

  • After this year’s experience at the White House, Gerry Adams may yet join him… assuming either are invited.

  • There’s been some first class diplomatic grovelling over the last day or so no doubt, Sturgeon included. The crucial word there though is pedestal, Eastwood hasn’t really got one. His party’s irrelevant and so his boycott’s largely a non-issue.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The SDLP lost seats to People before Profit and the Greens parties to the left of them, who don’t need these Presidential visits to win votes … do visits like these really help them with their core vote, or a bunch of analysts in the mainstream who just seem to wish they were camouflaging themselves with some other parties?

  • Kevin Breslin

    (Spoiler alert) He’ll be the President of the United States.
    None of these are President of the United States.

    You don’t see the issue with almost deifying the man?

    Is it really worth vindicating the concept of the discrimination of minorities as a means of making money?

    He’s going to have plenty of people photoed with him during his term, probably moreso because He’s Donald Trump … why should opposition leaders in Stormont or indeed Dáil Éireann once again be a mudguard for these US visits become more and more trivial with every passing visit?

    Questions have to be asked about the political capital are Enda Kenny or Michael Martin making out these visits too … because for Stormont there’s been very little delivery from stateside at these events, I doubt the Republic’s got much either.

  • Granni Trixie

    Let me clarify that I share the SDLP views about Trump and also that I always think that the trek across the pond by our politicans on St Patrick’s looks rather undignified. But whilst it’s difficult to put your finger on why it matters I still think that trying to ‘boycott’ America just makes a Party/Leader look foolish.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Boycott Trump’s St Patrick’s Day event … there was no mention of boycotting other visits to America.

    “I will continue to work with our many friends across America. Trump’s presidency will not stop that engagement with business and political figures. It will not stop that special bond of friendship and history which will endure beyond the Trump presidency.

  • npbinni

    Colum has condescended to sit in an Assembly with people who were directly or indirectly involved in many of the 3,500 deaths in NI during the Troubles. I’m sure he will, some time, be able to bring himself to meet or talk to President Trump, assuming, of course, he ever gets an invitation.

  • Old Mortality

    In what other country do leading politicians celebrate the national holiday by rushing off to a foreign country? It’s a very undignified spectacle indeed.

  • Old Mortality

    The answer is that none of them speak Chinese, Russian or German so Xi Jinping et alia are all foreigners.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Holding an elected political office means that you have a duty to represent that office, sometimes in situations that you find morally dubious.

    The UK deals with Saudi Arabia, senior British officials, including the head of state meet and greet, dine with and pose for photo ops with the rulers of that kingdom.

    Donald Trump may not be the most likable and morally decent man around, but does anyone believe he’s worse than those who represent Saudi Arabia a country with an appalling human rights record?

    When Trump becomes POTUS he will represent America, and any boycott will be an insult to the citizens of that country.

    We may not like it but they’ve made their choice, he didn’t get the majority of votes but he was elected under their system and given our unfit for purpose method there’s nothing we can say about it.

    Ireland holds a unique and enviable position with regard to its relationship with the USA. No other country with such a small population gets such treatment and it’s not something that should be treat lightly.

    Mr Eastwood needs to get a grip and do what he’s paid to do.

  • Granni Trixie

    You may know that but to outsiders Colm has painted himself into a corner ….which inevitably he will have to get himself out of.

  • Korhomme

    Some of those cracks are really very good.

    The old charmer though was sensible enough to get clever people in to to the graft while he did the ‘fronting’. Just sad that they were neoliberals.

    Will Trump get clever people in?

  • Anglo-Irish

    It’s they way he telled em. : )

  • Kevin Breslin

    As far as I’m concerned Trump is a foreigner too … Anglophone or not.

    Why is there no ability for these Northern Irish politicians to use translators and that?

    Why is the DUP making efforts to get Arabic speaking sheikhs to be tourists here if they don’t bother to speak Arabic?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Outsiders will be more focused on what the SDLP do on the inside in the long run, they can have their vox pop commentary, then go back to why they think its so bizarre than demagoguery rhetoric is so normalized.

    In my opinion, dismissing every Trumpism as if they’re just words cheapens any principles these “outsiders” ever claimed to cling to.

    What do the words of these “outsiders” mean to the groups that Trump offends if politicians cannot act upon them?

    Why do these “outsiders” even bother talking if they want no one to do anything, is there a lack of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere they need to be filled?

    Is that why they are not insiders inside their own sphere of influence?

  • billypilgrim1

    “Deifying the man”? What on earth are you even talking about?

    Your understanding of the nature of political power appears to be stuck at Students’ Union level. That’s okay. What’s no okay is that it seems Colum Eastwood’s does too.

  • Granni Trixie

    Kevin
    Not altogether sure as to your meaning but By ‘outsiders’ I meant people outside the SDLP. I think we are agreed that ‘we need to talk about the impact and significance of the Trump effect’…from which action might follow.
    To immediately commit a party not to go to a St Patrick’s celebration seems a bit childish. Getting a handle on how to address impotence at this early stage is perhaps all we can do right now.