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'We have to respect America's decision. That doesn't mean we'll agree with everything he says or does'

There is a feeling of shock and disbelief around the halls of Leinster House today as the reality sets in that Donald Trump has been elected as the US president.

Minister Simon Coveney talking to the media today after last night's US election result.
Minister Simon Coveney talking to the media today after last night's US election result.
Image: Leah Farrell

SURPRISE, SHOCK, DISBELIEF. These are just some of the words used by politicians in Leinster House today.

The atmosphere at last night’s US Embassy election party in the Guinness Storehouse, which was attended by many TDs, was drastically different.

There were laughs, jokes and jubilant cheers as the initial results put Hillary Clinton in the lead in Florida early on.

“She’ll definitely floor it,” said one TD. Fast forward a few hours and the sombre mood and sense of shock amongst TDs was palpable this morning (although maybe that was partly down to lack of sleep).

While Taoiseach Enda Kenny was grilled during Leaders’ Questions about his thoughts on Donald Trump, Ministers Simon Coveney and Shane Ross were accosted by the media for their two cents on what had happened overnight at a morning press conference.

Respect America’s decision

Coveney said that while we have to respect America’s decision, we don’t necessarily have to like it.

We have to respect the democratic decision – that doesn’t mean we’ll agree with everything he says or does in the future and we need to be brave enough to say that. But I think we should judge a person on how they behave once they take office because it is the office the president of the United States that Ireland needs to keep a close relationship with and that’s what we’ll do.

09/11/2016. Be Winter- Ready 2016-2017.Pictured i Minister Simon Coveney talking to the media today after last night's US election result. Source: Leah Farrell

Coveney was quick to clarify the statement Enda Kenny made some months back describing some of Trump’s rhetoric as racist.

I never called him a racist. I think what the Taoiseach commented on was comments that he made as opposed to the person himself. I think it is important that those comments aren’t twisted in anyway, but what I would say is that we need to have have a strong and positive and close relationship with any US president given the relationship that we have with the US.

The housing minister harked back to a point made by Labour’s Pat Rabbitte some years back that what candidates promise in election campaigns is not always delivered.

What is said during campaigns

“There is a difference in politics sometimes between the nature of campaigns and how fractious they can become, and the responsibility on a president once he or she is elected to run a country and to develop and negotiate with other countries in the world.

“We need now to move on from the divisive and fractious nature of that campaign and much of its commentary and listen to what he has to say as a president,” said Coveney.

09/11/2016. Be Winter- Ready 2016-2017. Pictured i Sports Minister Shane Ross Source: Leah Farrell

“I’m very, very surprised indeed at the result. I thought Hillary Clinton was going to win,” Sports Minister Shane Ross added.

Unlike commentary that he may have made during his previous life as a newspaper columnist, Ross stuck to the government line and said Ireland would have to work with Donald Trump.

‘We may not personally like the result’

“I think when someone is democratically elected we have to accept that fact and deal with them as democratically elected president… we may not personally like the result of a lot of elections around the world – but a democratically elected politician is a democratically politician,” said Ross.

Other ministers were not so balanced in their remarks, with one stating that ‘America has gone and done it now and voted in a racist and a masochist as their president’.

08/10/2016. US ELECTION NIGHT. Pictured US Ambassa The American Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O'Malley at last night's US Embassy Election party in the Guinness Storehouse. Source: Sam Boal

Another said they were “utterly gobsmacked”.

I went to sleep last night and thought it was going to be a walkover and then I just couldn’t believe it.

Sinn Fein’s David Cullinane said that while Trump wouldn’t be his choice, he respected the electorate. He noted his own concerns.

He said this election result and the Brexit result shows that there is a real disconnect between the political establishment and the working class. Cullinane said he was concerned about the undocumented Irish in the US and said the likes of Trump and Nick Farage in the UK were using the platform of immigration to push their agenda.

What does this mean for Ireland?

While Coveney told the media today that the relationship between Ireland and America is hugely important and is “going to remain hugely important”, other TDs were questioning what this could mean for Ireland.

“He is looking to lower corporation tax to 15% – this could spell real trouble for Ireland,” said one TD.

Some worried about the impact the election result might have on tourism to Ireland, due to the drop in the US dollar.

“I would be very worried if that was going to happen,” said Ross, but said he did not know what was going to happen.

“I have no idea where the dollar is going to be tomorrow, but certainly if I thought it was going to happen, I would be very worried.”

08/10/2016. US ELECTION NIGHT. Pictured US Ambassa US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O' Malley and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone TD. Source: Sam Boal

A senator said his real concern is for the undocumented Irish living in the US. “Imagine waking up to that result. He can’t realistically deport one million people, can he?”

US Presidential election Donald Trump as he makes his acceptance speech in New York following his victory to become he 45th president of the United States. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The people the elite left forgot

Another senator was of a completely different view.

“I think this result has really kicked the liberal left-wing media up the ass. The PC brigade thought it was a done deal, when in fact, Trump has tapped into the people that the elite left have forgotten.

“I thought his speech this morning was great, and really inclusive.”

Coveney echoed these remarks stating “the comments from Donald Trump this morning have been generous – they are aimed at trying to unify people after what was one of the most bitter campaigns that I can ever remember and also his comments aimed at the international community, I think were also generous.”

So, will the government welcome President Trump to Ireland if he chooses to visit? “Of course,” said Coveney.

“I would think we should always welcome a US leader to Ireland. The relationship between Ireland and the US is arguably a more special relationship than the US has with any other country, that is valuable and needs to be maintained and that will certainly happen and this government will work to make sure that happens.”

And will an invite be extended to the Taoiseach for next year’s Patrick’s Day celebrations? Given Trump’s tough stance on immigration, will we be welcome or will we have to leave our bowl of shamrocks at the gate of the White House?

A government source said he would be extremely surprised if an invitation was not extended to the Taoiseach to meet the US president stating that it is tradition and something that has been going on for many years.

But who will that Taoiseach be? That is a question for another day.

Read: A sea of red: Here’s the state-by-state guide of who’s taken where

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