The Irish and and our election: They’re interested, and worried

The rest of the world has always paid attention to our presidential elections, but foreign newspapers and foreign leaders have generally been circumspect and very careful about what they say about the campaigns.

Most countries respect the leadership of the United States in world affairs. And those countries who accept American foreign aid certainly want to continue their good relations with the big brother nation that helps them.

Not this year. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the exception. His campaign, his speeches, his record, the man himself have come under serious, bitter criticism throughout Ireland. Take a quick look at the evidence:

• The Irish Times quotes Irish government leader Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “If Trump’s comments are racist and dangerous, which they are, there is an alternative for Americans to vote for.”

• The Irish Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadker, has described comments by Trump as sexist and misogynist.

• Irish Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor was quoted in the Irish Independent as saying, “I think that it is totally unacceptable the way Trump talks about women. And what really disgusted me was the way he spoke about people with disability. It is reprehensible.

• Micheal Martin, leader of Ireland’s opposition party Fianna Fail, was quoted in the same newspaper as saying, “It is not acceptable for democrats to speak in the way Donald Trump has spoken about various religions and ethnic groups and about building walls. It sets an appalling example for how the free world should speak and articulate.”

• Irish President Michael D. Higgins, in an extraordinary intervention in the US election process, slammed Trump for fomenting racism, drawing a comparison with the Famine Irish. Higgins stated that targeting the most vulnerable was utterly wrong and the Irish knew all about it from their history.

• Micheal Clifford, a columnist for the Irish Examiner, wrote on Oct. 15: “Donald Trump is scary, but not as scary as the circumstances that produced him. How alienated can citizens of the US be that this dangerous buffoon has got as close as he has to being president of their country. Trump says he is a billionaire, but he will not publish his tax returns. No other politician running for the presidency could ever hope to get away with that one.”

For all that, the Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, is so concerned with the frequency and severity of all this criticism that in private meetings he has been urging his colleagues to stop publicly attacking Trump – because it was still possible that he could win the election.

People in London, Belfast, and Dublin should not be telling us how to vote, and in most elections, that is the case. The problem apparently is that Trump excites such intense reactions that many are motivated to speak out. There is also a tendency for foreigners to criticize the USA simply because they can.

On the other hand, it is helpful for Americans to have an idea of how the world thinks about us. Any country living in isolation will pay a price for its ignorance. It is foolish for the citizens of any country to stick their head in the ground and not try to understand the larger world around them.

This is our world of rapidly advancing technology where new inventions occur many times a day, a world of instant communication. All the debates and both conventions were broadcast worldwide. Almost everything Trump or Clinton says is known immediately throughout the universe.

When a simple email sent across town can be accessed by a foreign country and sent out to all the media in an attempt to influence our elections, everyone must be super careful and keep being aware of what goes on outside our borders.

This is not a defense of what the Irish are saying; it is just a small reflection on what the 95 percent of the world’s population outside of our 50 states may be thinking.

Let us pray that when this election is over, most of us are still talking with each other and that our great nation will come together to continue to be the model for democracy it has always been.