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Friday 29 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
# please hold for leo
Trump congratulates Leo on leadership victory (after the US president was 'on hold' for 90 seconds)
Earlier this year, Varadkar said he wouldn’t be keen on Trump visiting Ireland.

Updated at 10.13pm

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has spoken over the phone to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for the first time, congratulating him on a “great victory” in the Fine Gael leadership race.

The conversation came after Trump was put on hold for ‘at least 90 seconds’ as he waited for Varadkar to pick up, according to members of the White House press pool, who were in the Oval Office with the president at the time.

Footage from RTÉ showed Trump congratulating Varadkar on his “great victory”.

“Congratulations on your great victory,” the US president told Varadkar.

“We have so many people from Ireland in this country. I know so many of them. I feel I know all of them.

But I just wanted to congratulate you. That was a great victory that you had.

Trump also spoke to RTÉ’s Washington Correspondent & US Bureau Chief Caitriona Perry.

“We have a lot of your Irish press watching us just now in the room,” he said to Varadkar.

Then, to Caitriona Perry, Trump said:

“Where are you from? Go ahead, come here. We are all over this beautiful Irish press.”

Perry introduced herself and Trump said:

Caitriona Perry. She has a nice smile on her face so I bet she treats you well.

The press were then removed from the Oval Office while the two men continued to talk.

A government press spokesperson said that Trump had invited Varadkar to the annual St Patrick’s Day events in Washington next March and that both leaders “looked forward to meeting in person then”.

“They agreed to continue strong co-operation between Ireland and the US on economic issues, shared culture, and family ties,” the spokesperson said.

Particular topics discussed included migration, Brexit and the movement of goods and citizens across the border, climate change, free trade, Irish inward investment in the US, and the undocumented Irish. They also discussed the Northern Ireland Peace Process.

Varadkar also spoke to UK Prime Minister Theresa May today over the phone.

According to the readout of the conversation, the two leaders discussed the Confidence and Supply agreement the Conservative Party has reached with the DUP.

“They confirmed their joint commitment to restore a Northern Ireland Executive as soon as possible and agreed to engage closely, and work with the parties in Northern Ireland, to bring back political stability and a strong voice at Stormont,” a UK government spokesperson said.

The two leaders also spoke about their willingness to continue close cooperation as the UK embarks on leaving the European Union.

Opposition criticism 

Speaking in the Dáil before the phone call with Trump took place, Varadkar defended his decision to speak to him.

“The phone call is at Mr Trump’s request to congratulate me on my election as Taoiseach,” said Varadkar.

“I am going to receive the phone call. Relations between Ireland and America are very important.

They are going to go on long after presidents, taoisigh and governments change in both countries.

Varadkar was responding to criticism from People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett who said that Trump was pursuing “pure unadulterated racism”. / YouTube

Varadkar said he did not agree with Trump’s travel ban and had “no difficulty saying that if I have an opportunity to do so”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin enquired about the new US ambassador to Ireland.

Varadkar said he had no update, but that “a name has been mentioned”. However, he added that the person had “yet to be formally nominated or to go to confirmation”.

Earlier calls

An Irish government spokesperson earlier confirmed the planned call, adding that Varadkar had held phone calls with a number of other international leaders since his appointment two weeks ago – including French President Emmanuel Macron, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Enda Kenny invited Trump to visit Ireland during his St Patrick’s Day visit to the White House in March.

However speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke back in February, Varadkar said he “wouldn’t be keen” on inviting Trump to visit.

“I wouldn’t [invite Trump],” he said.

I’m not sure what purpose it would serve.

When asked during a Leaders’ Questions session last week if he would rescind the invitation, he said he would not.

“I will not, of course, rescind that invitation,” he said, adding that to do so would be “inappropriate” and would create a “diplomatic incident”.

With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald

Read: Leo Varadkar is the first minister to say Trump shouldn’t be invited to Ireland

More: Trump hosts ‘true friend’ Modi for first one-on-one at White House

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