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Trump pandered to racism says Ireland’s former president Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson

Former Ireland president Mary Robinson launched a scathing attack on Donald Trump, claiming the US president had pandered to racism to win power.

Robinson was speaking at the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) conference in Dublin where she told a global audience of social workers that Trump had wanted “to make America white again”.

In a keynote speech, Robinson told social workers of the urgent need to address climate change. Asked what she would say to people who felt disempowered and saw climate control as elitist and irrelevant to their lives, Robison criticised Trump for stoking up such popularist views.

Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement aimed at controlling CO2 emissions last year as part of his election pledge to put “America first” and focus on preserving US jobs.

Robison said: “The popularism of Donald Trump appealed to those who felt left out. He did it in a pretty racist way that we have never seen before in the United States. He wanted to make America white again not just great again.

“He has continued to use language a president shouldn’t use and have influence a president should not have.”

Robinson, who was president of Ireland between 1990 and 1997, said she sympathised with the disenfranchisement many American workers had felt at the loss of traditional industries.

“They had not been encouraged to think of the future as something that would be a good for them. There was too much talk about renewable energy without recognising that if you are moving from coal and gas there are workers in these sectors that have to be encouraged to be retrained.”

She said a “just transition” for some workers that had given years to industries like mining could have been to give them early retirement so they were “not just left on the scrap heap”.

Nearly 200 countries including America signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 pledging to introduce measures to combat global warming starting in 2020.

But in June last year, president Trump announced he would no longer comply with the measures, describing them as for the “exclusive benefit of other countries” which he said would leave American workers to “absorb the cost in lost jobs, lower wages, shut factories and vastly diminished economic production”.

The four-day Dublin conference saw more than 2,000 social workers from across the world gather to discuss issues around the theme of environmental and community sustainability.

Robinson warned climate change was an “existential human crisis” that had become a “civil rights movement” impacting most on the poorest countries that had least benefited from fossil fuel. She added: “We stand at the crossroads of our very humanity. We must challenge our minds and our hearts about what needs to be done.”

Now part of a group of global leaders promoting human rights set up by Nelson Mandela called the Elders, Robinson spent five years as the United Nations commissioner for human rights after stepping down as Ireland’s president.