By Lydia Jackson
Fresh divisions have arisen this week in relation to President Donald Trump within Northern Ireland. The new spat surrounds a “warm invitation” to Mr. Trump to visit Northern Ireland, in a letter addressed from former First Minister Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, and former deputy First Minister Michael McGuinness, retired Sinn Féin politician.
These parties currently hold the most seats from Northern Ireland within the UK parliament.
Upon Executive Office confirmation of an invitation it has become clear that the letter was sent on November 9th 2016, the day after Trump had won the presidential election to become the 45th President of the United States.
Upon congratulating the then President-Elect, and reminding him of the strong economic ties between the US and Northern Ireland, the letter proceeded to boast that “no fewer than seventeen of your predecessors had Scots-Irish heritage,” before concluding that “we wish you every success in your new role and we extend an invitation to visit Northern Ireland. You can be assured of a warm welcome.”
However, since Trumps inauguration his policy implementations and the proposed visit have received large amounts of criticism including from the new Sinn Féin leader in Stormont, Michelle O’Neill, who insists that a visit would no longer be appropriate.
Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin President and party leader, also stated that people are “appalled” by “the racist, anti-women and anti-immigration policies of President Trump”, and Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the parliament in Republic of Ireland, has been one of Trump’s toughest critics.
Others, such as Social Democratic and Labour Party leader Colum Eastwood, expressed shock that Foster and McGuinness would “sell out their principles so quickly”, and has called for the invitation to be recalled. The SDLPs hold the third most seats within UK parliament of a party prominent in Northern Ireland.
Similarly, Stewart Dickinson of the Alliance Party has expressed concern over the prospective visit, in particular regarding potential brownnosing.
Of the five Northern Irish parties with the most seats in UK parliament, the Ulster Unionist Party, led by Mike Nesbitt, are the only party that have outwardly expressed approval of the visit. He has argued that Mrs. Foster and Mr. McGuinness had “got something right in trying to get the leader of the wealthiest nation in the world to visit Northern Ireland”.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s invitation for Trump to visit Britain has also faced criticism including over one million signatures on a petition calling for her to retract the invitation. However, there has also been a counter petition signed by over 100,000 people to encourage the visit to go ahead.
All in all, it would appear that there is a continuance of contrasting opinions on Trump’s actions, intentions and abilities to “make America great again”, as well as how they should be responded to, and that they are clearly having a divisive effect on politics within the United Kingdom.