Senior hurling in the White House

Published in Editorial, Issue 2 (March/April 2017), Volume 25


Notwithstanding the fact that Mayo hasn’t won a Connacht senior hurling title since 1909, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s colourful phrase, that ‘senior hurling has gone global’, is an apt one in the post-Brexit/Trump world. (For an imprecise translation, perplexed non-Irish readers might substitute the word ‘hardball’.) This, of course, carries with it the implication that Ireland is a ‘senior player’—or, as Robert Emmet put it more eloquently, has ‘taken her place amongst the nations of the earth’.

The context is President Trump’s executive order barring entry to the US from seven named Muslim-majority states, which has been condemned world-wide and faces legal challenge at home. Under these circumstances, should the Taoiseach, as has been suggested, attend the annual St Patrick’s Day bash in the White House to argue the case of the c. 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US? But surely, particularly if we are serious about being a ‘senior player’, this puts us on the back foot and ignores the awkward fact that this is a reciprocal arrangement: the same rules apply (more or less) to US citizens here. Meanwhile, in Ireland thousands of asylum-seekers—who, unlike the undocumented Irish in the US, have broken no rules—languish, sometimes for years, in direct-provision centres.

At the time of writing it is still unclear what the fallout of Trump’s order will be on US immigration facilities at Irish airports. If it involves the application of legally questionable and xenophobic policies on our sovereign soil, shouldn’t their closure be seriously considered, even if inconvenient for Irish travellers? After all, this is senior hurling, and to excel at it you go in close (the Taoiseach should go) but you go in hard (and call out Trump for the xenophobe and racist that he is). Playing senior hurling is a lot harder than walking off the pitch in a grandstanding gesture or lying prone in front of your opponent. Pull on it, Enda!

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