During a radio debate on attitudes to Donald Trump in NI, a former Stormont minister described the American president as a ‘con artist’.
On Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme yesterday former SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said: “Trump is a con artist. He is not somebody with a significant political vocabulary or ability. This is a person who talks about draining the swamp, who is himself a member of the elite.”
Another former Stormont minister, Danny Kennedy, believed Trump’s handling of Charlottesville was a “huge mistake”.
The UUP man said: “I think he’s made a huge mistake in the current controversy around Charlottesville by giving the impression that he’s aligning himself to the far right, to neo Nazis. No decent human being could ever or should ever align themselves to those groups, least of all the US president.”
He added, however, that he felt Mr Trump’s appeal to white working classes in America was still “pretty much intact”.
Former Ukip politician, now independent unionist councillor, Henry Reilly, disagreed saying that Mr Trump “merely pointed out that anti-fascist groups are a very, very nasty group of people”.
The discussion extended to a perceived division in Northern Ireland of nationalists being anti-Trump while unionists support the president.
Prof Peter Shirlow, director of the University of Liverpool’s Instutute of Irish Studies, said there was some evidence of a green/orange divide on opinion on Trump, though he said his supporters come from a “very complex mosaic of political opinions”.
He said that recent research showed there was a significant split in the PUL (Protestant/unionist/loyalist) community in terms of age with younger people being much more liberal.
“I think if you ask young people in Northern Ireland about Trump, whether they’re Catholic or Protestant, they’ll be very hostile,” he added.
Mr Maginness felt the vast majority of nationalists were anti-Trump. “In terms of his approach to rights, immigration, equality issues, it would not harmonise with the views of nationalists.”