While Irish Prime Minster Enda Kenny traveled to the White House to take part in a traditional "shamrock ceremony" with his American counterpart on Thursday, Irish lawmaker Aodhán Ó'Ríordáin and other critics called on Irish-Americans to take a stand against President Donald Trump and his xenophobic policies.
To coincide with Ireland's National Holiday, St. Patrick's Day, on Friday, Ó'Ríordáin has planned an event dubbed "Irish Stand," which will provide a platform for "Irish, American, and global voices" to be "raised in united for justice and equality."
"The story of the Irish, both home and abroad, is one of immigration, sectarianism, and oppression," reads the event website. "We understand and echo the concerns of those communities who face fear and uncertainty. We are, therefore, compelled to raise our voices in the spirit of the late and great, Dr. King, and make a compassionate stand for unity."
Notably, the event is being held at New York City's Riverside Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. historically took a stand again the Vietnam War in April 1967.
"If we were to let Enda Kenny's visit to the White House pass without people from an Irish background least trying to do something then that would be a missed opportunity," he said. "I don't know what happens next and we do have to be realistic but things can often go in expected directions."
In an op-ed published The Journal on Thursday, Ó'Ríordáin expanded on this idea. He wrote:
It is my contention that in this era of fear and uncertainty the Irish have a historic and moral obligation to take a stand for justice and equality.
No other country in the world understands immigration like we do. We understand coffin ships, sectarianism, suppression of rights and overcoming conflict like no other nation.
The negative stereotypes now attached to other identities were once attached to us. We were the terrorists at one time.
So now as the most powerful nation on earth turns its hate on its most vulnerable of inhabitants, we have a platform to call it out for what it is. It is racism.
Calling out the Irish-Americans within the Trump administration who will "undoubtedly use the St. Patrick's Day events in the White House to promote the American success story of a white European Christian people," Ó'Ríordáin said that they "have forgotten themselves and their own history."
— Aodhán Ó Ríordáin (@AodhanORiordain) March 16, 2017
Irish people, he concludes, must "refuse to allow our history to be hijacked for a right-wing white nationalist agenda."
Similarly, Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole wrote last week about the "double standard" among Irish and Irish-Americans to "weep for the plight of the 'undocumented Irish' in the U.S." and at the same time be "tough about 'illegal immigrants' violating the sanctity of our own borders."
How can these products of mass migration justify to themselves a campaign of terror against migrant communities? By holding in their heads a toxic duality: white Irish migrants good; brown Mexican or Muslim migrants bad.
[...] This is a moment of truth about what it means to be Irish in the world. We either wink at a racism that affords most of us the privilege of a white skin. Or we honour the struggles of so many millions of Irish immigrants to be accepted as equal human beings.
Proceeds from Friday's event, which is being supported by members of Waking the Feminists, Black Lives Matter, and the Women's March, will go to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Included among the diverse list of speakers are writer and activist Shaun King; actors Gabriel Byrne and Richard Schiff; Imam Shamsi Ali, Muslim scholar and director of Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens; and civil liberties champion Terry McGovern. The event will also feature contributions from New York-based Irish author and National Book Award recipient Colum McCann and comedian Maeve Higgins.