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SDLP will boycott Trump White House says Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has expressed his "deep disappointment" at Donald Trump's victory and said he will boycott the Trump White House. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Gareth McKeown

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has launched an extraordinary attack on US President Donald Trump and the American voters who elected him.

Mr Eastwood expressed his "deep disappointment" yesterday after Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president and confirmed he will not attend a Trump White House.

Traditionally each year Irish political leaders are invited to Washington to celebrate St Patrick's Day.

In October the Foyle MLA said Mr Trump's remarks about women, immigrants and minority communities were "absolutely grotesque" and would render it impossible for him to attend any White House function under his presidency.

He further labelled him a "bigot" who has stirred up "sectarian, racial and xenophobic hatred".

Speaking following Mr Trump's shock presidential election victory over veteran Democrat Hillary Clinton, Mr Eastwood said his position on the new president had not changed.

“As things fall apart, the centre ground is struggling to know what is worth holding on to. Mainstream politics remains uneasy and unsure as to its place, its power and its purpose," he said.

“Donald Trump has swept in to fill this vacuum. Trump's victory was anti-establishment, anti-immigrant and most particularly anti-globalisation."

Failing to acknowledge the almost 60 million Americans who voted for Mr Trump, he added: “(It) was 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. This is increasingly the choice that western electorates now face.

“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," he said.

Mr Eastwood encouraged his supporters to turn their anger into an effort to ensure that his victory does not "endure."

“This morning there will be the easy and understandable temptation to turn to anger at the ignorance, misogyny and racism which has fed this victory. I am conscious that this is particularly the feeling amongst a huge swathe of young people, not only in America, but across the world," he said.

“Instead of anger though, I think it would be better for us all if we displayed the softer sentiment of sadness. It would be better if we reflect on and react to this result and ensure that his victory and vision is not one which endures."

However, the SDLP leader said he would continue to work with US friends, just not with the Trump presidency.

"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.

“I will continue to work with our many friends across America. Trump's presidency will not stop that engagement with business and political figures," he said.

The DUP, who along with Sinn Féin and the UUP, congratulated Mr Trump on his victory, said it remained to be seen whether an SDLP boycott would have any impact.

"The DUP will work to strengthen the economic and political relationships between Northern Ireland and the United States. There are leaders in Northern Ireland however who apparently will now boycott the White House. It only remains to be seen whether anyone within the US administration will actually notice," A DUP spokesman said.

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