Monday, November 28, 2016
Dear Senator Ó Riordáin,
I wanted to take a moment to commend you for your remarks delivered on November 10th in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. In a bleak moment for those of us who believe not only in the practicality of democratic governance but in its underlying values and ideals, your words were invigorating. I suspect I speak for a great number of my countrymen (two million more of whom voted against Trump than for him) when I say “thank you.”
My hope is that you (and those of us with similar values) will continue to shine a light on the atrociousness of Mr. Trump’s words and actions and bring pressure on governmental institutions to not normalize (via passive acceptance) values antithetical to democracy.
Of course, it is not the job of Ireland, its government, or its people to save the United States from itself. However, as I think your recent remarks suggest, the time has come for those of us who share democratic values to take note of ties of political and moral kinship beyond our borders. The election of Mr. Trump is but the most recent and egregious incident in what I fear is a movement to roll back progress on matters of equality, justice, and inclusiveness. This movement is not unique to the United States, and therefore the resistance to it must not be confined by borders.
I feel it’s important to note, however, the special role Ireland might play in this vis-à-vis the incoming administration in the U.D. Among the most odious of Mr. Trump’s statements and promises are those involving anti-immigrant sentiment and hatefulness based on religious beliefs. Such rhetoric is not new; indeed, its roots in America predate the establishment of the United States as an independent nation. And Irish immigrants to America were particularly targeted by such hatefulness during the influx of migration from Ireland in the 19th century.
Given this, public voices in Ireland are in a position to be of particular influence given that such a large percentage of us in America are here thanks to our Irish forebears. Ireland can speak to America about the repugnance of such sentiments in way no other nation on Earth can, reminding us that although Saint Patrick’s Day is practically a national holiday in the U.S., this is the case today despite the best efforts of those like Mr.Trump, who, were he living 150 years ago, would likely have advocated for closing harbors to Irish ships and advocating for “extreme vetting” of the impoverished and starving immigrants who sought refuge on our shores.
As someone descended in part from immigrants from Cork and Galway, it was particularly moving to hear such a fierce voice for decency speaking with an Irish accent. And I both hope and expect that many other Americans, including those perhaps not predisposed to be open to such a message, would be similarly responsive to these sentiments from our Irish cousins in way they would not if they came from almost any other quarter.
Indeed, it would be a monumentally meaningful gesture if the leading public figures of Ireland said they would not engage in “business as usual” with the incoming administration given its repellent views toward immigrants and religious minorities.
Although I suspect persuading the highest government officials in Ireland would be difficult (self-interest being what it is), the effort to do so is worth it. Above all, our shared goal ought to be to avoid normalizing what should be—what must be—stigmatized as antithetical to the projects of democratic government and building a more humane world.
Your remarks were a formidable and welcome contribution in this effort, and I sincerely hope you continue to fight this battle. And please know that as you do, you have countless allies here in America with whom you will find common cause.
Go raibh maith agat,