Tánaiste Simon Coveney to skip Trump visit to travel to Belfast, where there is "real work to do"
Simon Coveney said that talks with Donald Trump will focus on the impact of Brexit on Ireland.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney will not meet with Donald Trump when the US President arrives in Ireland on Wednesday as he is travelling to Northern Ireland instead, where he says there is "real work to do".
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Coveney said: "I'm heading for Northern Ireland today, so while a lot of the media focus will be on Shannon and Clare, I'll be in Belfast. We have real work to do with the parties up there."
Earlier in the show, TD Jan O'Sullivan labelled Trump as a racist and dangerous. The Tánaiste was asked if he agreed with this sentiment.
"No, the focus of the Government today is on a bilateral meeting with the president of the US," Coveney responded.
"It's a big deal when a US president comes to Ireland. The relationship between Ireland and the US remains strong, even though we disagree on many policy areas with the current administration, that's no secret. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be talking about those differences."
The Tánaiste said that the main focus of the Taoiseach during talks with Donald Trump will be on protecting Ireland’s interests and the peace process.
“It’s no secret that we don’t agree with President Trump’s views on Brexit," Coveney added.
"The Taoiseach indicated that when they met in Washington a few weeks ago. The focus of the discussions between the Taoiseach and President Trump will be on the impact of Brexit on Ireland. Successive US administrations have been supportive of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement. I think that's where the conversation will focus."
When asked to define Trump's interventions on Brexit, Coveney said that they've been "blunt and direct". However, he reaffirmed his stance that Ireland does not agree with Trump's perspective.
Mr Coveney acknowledged that many were dismayed at Mr Trump’s views on climate change and felt that Trump's policies are "regressive" and that "the world needs to move forward together".
In relation to the talks in Belfast, Coveney said that "we have some heavy lifting to do in the next two weeks" because "the people of Northern Ireland are becoming frustrated with a lack of political progress".
You can listen to Coveney's interview in full here.