SDLP leader won’t congratulate ‘fanatical’ Trump and will boycott White House

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood has denounced the US President elect
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood has denounced the US President elect

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has denounced US President-elect Donald Trump, repeating his pledge not to go to the White House during his presidency and describing his victory as the product of “ignorance, misogyny and racism”.

Standing firmly outside the Northern Ireland political consensus of politely congratulating Mr Trump, Mr Eastwood released a statement in which he refused to congratulate the tycoon and savaged his “fanatical” ideology.

The comments – which came after the perfunctory congratulatory statements from most other Northern Irish political leaders – open up an intra-nationalist split over how to handle the election of a man who is deeply unpopular with many Irish nationalists.

By contrast, Sinn Fein has adopted a far more restrained approach to the victory of a man who two decades ago famously attended a Sinn Fein fundraiser in New York where he was photographed shaking hands with Gerry Adams.

Mr Adams said this morning: “The people of the USA have spoken. Donald Trump had been elected as the 45th President of the USA. I congratulate him. The onus is on the President Elect to represent all the people of the USA and to play a positive and progressive role in world affairs.”

And, in a statement issued through Stormont Castle deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “I congratulate Donald Trump on his election victory.

Donald Trump as he makes his acceptance speech in New York.  Photo: Paco Anselmi/PA Wire

Donald Trump as he makes his acceptance speech in New York. Photo: Paco Anselmi/PA Wire

“I will work constructively with President Trump to maintain and strengthen our well established and deeply valued relationship with the United States.

“Over many years successive US administrations have made a major contribution to both our peace process and economic development and I expect this to continue.”

However, Mr Eastwood ferociously denounced the incoming resident of the White House, describing his triumph as “not so much a victory of right over left, it was a victory of fanatical and fantasy absolutism over a more considered, coherent and kinder politics”.

He added: “It is for this reason I have said that I will not attend a Trump White House. I choose to stand by a very different set of values than those displayed by this man.

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood (by Stephen Hamilton /Presseye)

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood (by Stephen Hamilton /Presseye)

“I will understand if those in government, North and South, feel a duty of office to attend. However, I feel it is important that as an Irish leader I take a stand, even if only small and only symbolic, for the kind of politics which we continue to believe in.”

By contrast, unionists more readily congratulated the businessman and former reality television star.

First minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster congratulated Mr Trump on his “historic” election, adding: “Northern Ireland has developed a mutually beneficial relationship with the United States and I look forward to working with Donald Trump’s administration to continue this.”

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt tweeted a brief message of congratulations to Mr Trump, adding that he looked forward to “continued US engagement with Northern Ireland”.

Party colleague Jim Nicholson also congratulated the President-elect, adding that his triumph showed that “we are certainly living in changing times”.

And TUV leader Jim Allister – whose press officer, Sammy Morrison, spoke out forcefully against Mr Trump in a News Letter article earlier this week – was enthusiastic about the outcome of the presidential race.

The North Antrim MLA tweeted: “The little people - the deplorables - have done it again. What a slap-down for the arrogant establishment. Congratulations Donald Trump.”

Like Mr Eastwood, Alliance Leader Naomi Long did not volunteer congratulations to Mr Trump, although she said that “the American people have made their decision...and we must respect it”.

The East Belfast MLA instead urged him to “attempt to heal the wounds of a bitterly divisive election campaign”.

However, Mrs Long – who was an enthusiastic supporter of Mrs Clinton – added pointedly: “Whatever people’s thoughts and whoever American citizens voted for, we cannot let the rhetoric Mr Trump used repeatedly throughout his campaign to become the norm. We must stand together and challenge hate speech and actions, even if it is from the President of the United States.”