Taoiseach says invitation for Trump to visit Ireland still stands

However, Leo Varadkar has said America seems to be 'departing from its own values' amid 'zero-tolerance' immigration policies

Taoiseach says invitation for Trump to visit Ireland still stands

Leo Varadkar and Donald Trump. Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

The invitation for President Donald Trump to visit Ireland still stands, according to the Taoiseach.

Leo Varadkar says it is better to engage with people you do not agree with - but added the Government will convey 'grave concerns' to the US Ambassador over the current US immigration policies.

It comes amid calls for the invitation to be withdrawn over the 'family separation' practices at the US-Mexico border.

There has been mounting outrage in the US and internationally that 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the US border in a six-week period.

Opposition to the Trump administration's 'zero-tolerance' policy to illegal migration has increased following the release of recordings and images of children being held in cages and crying for their parents.

A growing number of Republican politicians have joined Democrats in opposing the practice of family separation.

All four living former US First Ladies have condemned the current policy - with Hillary Clinton describing it as a 'moral and humanitarian crisis' - while Melania Trump has said she "hates to see children separated from their families".

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, meanwhile, has said family separation practices are "in no one’s best interests, least of all the children who most suffer their effects".

President Trump and his officials have continued to defend the controversial immigration policies, with the US President today claiming: "If you don’t have Borders, you don’t have a Country!"

'Should be the absolute last straw'

Amid the growing controversy, there have been calls on the Government to withdraw the invitation for Donald Trump to visit Ireland.

People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett argued: “This latest Donald Trump outrage should be the absolute last straw for the government, and should mean that they immediately make a public announcement that they are withdrawing any invitation to President Trump to visit Ireland."

However, the Taoiseach does not agree.

Leo Varadkar observed: "In terms of the invitation to President Trump, that invitation - which was issued by my forebearer - that invitation stands.

"However, there is no date for a visit, and no preparations have been made in relation to a visit.

"It's my view that I favour the politics of engagement, rather than the politics of boycott or the politics of no platform."

However, he criticised the current US policies, telling deputies: "Nobody can defend the scenes of children being forcibly separated from their parents."

Quoting the message engraved on the Statue of Liberty - "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" - the Taoiseach added: "It seems to me that America - more and more - is departing from its own values".

As well as the Government's pledge to express concerns to the US Ambassador 'as soon as possible', the Dáil agreed to debate an all-party motion condemning the US measures.

Last year, President Trump said he would visit Ireland "during the course of his presidency" following an invite from Enda Kenny, with Leo Varadkar having extended the invite during his visit to the White House earlier this year.

Additional reporting by Sean Defoe