Stoical smiles as US vice-president delivers strong endorsement of Johnson and Brexit
The hospitable hosts buttered up their important guest and made a big fuss of his family and hoped he would say nice things about them to the important people he would meet after his visit to Ireland.
And he told them they were wonderful and that he loved them. He even said a special prayer for everyone and then, just before he left, he turned around and kicked them where it hurts.
It came as a shock.
Like pulling out all the stops for a much-anticipated visitor to your home and thinking it has been a great success until somebody discovers he shat on the new carpet in the spare room, the one you bought specially for him.
US vice-president Mike Pence met President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Tuesday during an official visit. His Irish hosts, up to their oxters for the last three years in Brexit worry, hoped to impress upon him Ireland’s fears about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit for the country.
He could, maybe, stick in a supportive word for us in his talks with Boris Johnson in London – his next port of call.
Pence, after all, is Irish American and wastes no opportunity to go misty-eyed about his love for the “Old Country” as he lards on his Mother Machree schtick on both sides of the Atlantic. He couldn’t praise Ireland enough on Tuesday – “deeply humbled” and “honoured” to be going to the hometown of his mother’s grandmother and so on.
But, after he said all these nice things about the “Emerald Isle” and how much his boss Donald Trump – he sent his best wishes, by the way – appreciates us and all we do to help American security in Shannon, he delivered a very strong endorsement of Boris Johnson and Brexit.
No room left for doubt. As Pence read from the autocue and Irish eyes definitely stopped smiling, it was clear he was channeling His Master’s Voice. Trump is a fan of Brexit and of Boris.
And this, after such a lovely morning, with Pence and his mother meeting the Taoiseach and his mother.
His Irish mother, as Mike calls her. He dotes on Nancy. So he should have known that any Irish mammy will tell you if you can’t say anything good, say nothing at all.
Michael D’s sprayed-on smile when the US vice-president came to visit him in Áras an Uachtaráin was a joy to behold
Instead, he veered off his rather gushing statement following his meeting with the Taoiseach into some crunching Brexit remarks about our duty to do right by Boris Johnson and the UK.
As the air in the steamy ballroom turned decidedly frosty, Pence urged Ireland and the European Union “to negotiate in good faith” with the new British prime minister.
The local crowd raised eyebrows and wondered what he thinks the aforementioned EU has been doing for the last three years, if not negotiating in good faith with the UK.
Varadkar’s expression didn’t change. He stood on the platform beside the vice-president and hardly flinched, smiling politely.
Even when Pence made it worse by not only mentioning “good faith” and “Boris Johnson” in the same context but by also requesting his hosts to have “respect for the UK’s sovereignty”, Varadkar maintained a stoic courtesy.
He had to. It’s in the job description for normal prime ministers.
Same goes for Higgins, even though it would be true to say that Michael D and Mike Pence do not sing from the same hymn sheet.
But international diplomacy is what it is and in the context of going about their nations’ business, everyone has to be seen to get along.
But for all that, Michael D’s sprayed-on smile when the US vice-president came to visit him in Áras an Uachtaráin was a joy to behold.
The Áras was bedecked with flowers from the garden for the visit of the anti-gay-rights Pence. All the flowers were in shades of pink. The only other colour was lavender.
Pink flowers everywhere.
Pence arrived with a huge entourage. Higgins escorted him through the Áras and into the ballroom where he invited his guest to sign the visitors’ book. Michael D looked ahead a lot of the time. “Can I invite you to sign. . . ” he motioned towards the book.
Pence sat at the table and began to write. The President stood to one side, saying nothing apart from the occasional whisper to his wife, Sabina. The VP kept writing as the silence got louder. Still writing. Michael D looking into the distance.
Finally, thank God, Pence stopped writing, which was a relief all round. There was another photo opportunity then the party retired next door for tea. A picture was released of the two groups sitting on either side of a long table – two tables together.
The sort of thing when more guests than expected arrive. “Quick, run out next door and ask Assumpta for the collapsible table they got in for Mossie’s wake. Your man from America is only after arriving with half of Indiana. Where’s the big tablecloth?”
The talks between the President and the vice-president didn’t take long. Soon, they were waving goodbye from the portico. The dogs didn’t put in an appearance.
He didn’t call the vice-president a “w*****r”, which is what he did when he had a row many years ago on radio with a famous American conservative commentator. Michael Graham was his name. Michael D might easily have become confused, because Mike Pence is an adherent of the “Graham rule”. This is where he doesn’t stay alone in a room with a woman who is not his wife so as not to give rise to bad thoughts and the like.
At Farmleigh House, Varadkar’s static courtesy was equally impressive. But then, the Taoiseach has dined before in Pence’s presence.
“We are all God’s children,” Leo pointedly told him when they met for breakfast last March in Washington. Just to be clear, they met for breakfast in a roomful of other people. The two men weren’t dining alone, perish the thought.
It was a very pleasant event. This was when Leo invited his American host to Ireland and told him to bring along his mother too. It would be a grand trip for her and, in an emergency, if Mike’s wife was otherwise detained, mammy could sit in as chaperone should the VP have found himself unavoidably alone in a dining room with our gay Taoiseach.
You can never be too careful. In the end, Pence brought his wife, his mother and his sister to the Old Country, where it seems a lot of the natives have turned alarmingly heathen in the generations since his ancestors left our shores.
His morning began with a trip to the Phoenix Park and a courtesy call on the President.
To look at Mike Pence, with all smiles and handshakes, you’d hardly think he isn’t very keen on the gays at all.
Brave Mike sat down to lunch with the Taoiseach and his partner Matthew and managed not to choke on his Dublin Bay prawns. The VP’s wife Karen, who recently took up a part-time teaching position in a school which bans LGBT pupils and staff, kept her fillets of venison down despite the company.
The next prime minister the couple will meet on their trip will be the serial philander Boris Johnson. He’s pretty experienced on the extramarital and premarital sex front, which they abhor.
On Tuesday, to be on the safe side, nobody was left alone with the US vice-president in case it might upset him.
“We have both been blessed with Irish mothers,” Pence told the Taoiseach when they met the press. He didn’t say anything about Indian fathers (in Leo’s case) but there you go.
“I carry Ireland with me wherever I go,” said Pence, speaking of an old Ireland, one his ancestors left generations ago.
Still, his visit was a great example of diversity in action. President Trump, who recently visited, is very hands-on with women and likes to grab them in all sorts of places. And his second in command is the opposite. He won’t stay on his own with a woman who isn’t his wife.
God bless America.