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When is racist language racist? Enda Kenny facing big questions in the US

The Taoiseach says he’s not “into English lessons”.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

—Christina Finn, reporting from Washington DC

If someone’s language is racist, are they not racist?

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY cannot escape the tough questions – even in Washington DC.

Following a lunch event today, he was asked about racism, gay marriage and – of course – his leadership of Fine Gael.

His answers on all of the former were as murky as those on the latter have been this side of the Atlantic in recent weeks.

“I did not refer to the person, the now President, as being racist. My comment was in respect of his language,” he said confidently on the first.

Will that be enough, Mr Farage?

And will he raise the idea of same-sex marriages with the conservative Vice President, the guest of honour for much of these festivities? Well, he may. Or, he may not. After all, Mike Pence has been particular vocal about LGBT rights. That is, he opposes many of them.

And so to the question Leo and Simon want us to ask. What of his leadership? That’s Enda’s prerogative too. He’s most certainly not going to describe this as his last Stateside hurrah as Taoiseach just yet.

An apology to Trump

This evening’s racism conundrum comes after Nigel Farage’s demand for an apology from the Taoiseach.

The former UKIP man took to Irish airwaves this morning to make clear he wanted Kenny to ensure the first thing said to Donald Trump tomorrow is ‘I’m sorry’ for that whole ‘racist’ furore.

Newstalk’s Chris Donoghue was wondering what the Fine Gael leader was going to do with the request.

I haven’t come to America to answer to Nigel Farage,” he replied.

The Taoiseach had nothing further to add on, most likely thinking ‘that was that’.

Since the US election last November, Kenny has consistently denied ever calling POTUS a racist, claiming he was merely describing Trump The Candidate’s use of the English language racist.

Last May, during the campaign (a time when the idea of a Trump White House hadn’t gone mainstream), he told the Dáil remarks made by Trump The Candidate were both “racist and dangerous”.

His exact words, in fact, were:

If Donald Trump’s comments are racist and dangerous – which they are – there is an alternative to vote for.

Those comments were dropped following questions about his government’s intentions from the Opposition benches. In the absence of Micheál Martin and Richard Boyd Barrett today, Donoghue picked up the slack.

So, after a whirlwind event in the United States Institute of Peace on Connecticut Avenue, where Kenny spoke about Irish culture and shook hands with Irish-American business people, the two faced off again.

To reiterate, the Taoiseach said:

I did not refer to the person of the now president of being racist, my comment was in respect of his language.

(Donoghue: But if someone’s language is racist, are they not racist?)

“It doesn’t follow at all – language and words can be used by people in many regards. My comment was when he was running as a candidate of the election to be held,” explained Kenny.

“I’m not into English classes.”

(Donoghue: “You are a teacher.”)

“The language that was used on that occasion was in my view not that language that I would use but it was not related to his personality.”

Enda Kenny visits US - day 4 Enda Kenny being questioned ahead of his meeting with Donald Trump tomorrow. Source: Niall Carson

“You’re rewriting history,” cut in Donoghue before being swiftly cut off by the government press secretary.

(And we wonder if there are memories of 2002 haunting Enda when The Guardian reported how the family of Patrice Lumumba, the assassinated first Prime Minister of Congo, sought an apology from Kenny for using the N-word in what was described as a racist joke.)

Back to today though and concluding, the Taoiseach said that he was glad the meaning of his original comments (in that he was calling Trump the Candidate’s language racist and not Trump the Person racist) were being clarified. He believes his comments had just been taken up wrong all along.

The wind chill in DC is -10 degrees right now.

TheJournal.ie’s political reporter Christina Finn will be bringing you all the latest updates from Enda Kenny’s visit to Washington this week, including his meeting with US President Donald Trump on Thursday.

Stay up-to-date by following @ChristinaFinn8@TJ_Politics  and TheJournal.ie’s Facebook page.  

Nigel Farage: ‘Enda Kenny should apologise to Donald Trump for vile comments’>

Read: Leaked returns show Donald Trump paid $38 million in tax in 2005>

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