Trump pays tribute to that most Ulster of US presidents

Morning View
Morning View

Nowhere is the influence of the Scots Irish in America more obvious than in the long list of US presidents who could trace some of their ancestry to Ulster.

The most direct line of all is that of Andrew Jackson. He was born in 1767, a mere two years after his parents sailed west from Carrickfergus.

The early Belfast News Letters, from their very first editions in 1737, were reporting on boats that sailed out to the then American colonies. By the 1760s, the frequency of the boat departures was very high.

The Scots Irish were thus a high proportion of the early American population and played a key role in the fight for independence in the two decades after Andrew Jackson’s birth.

On Wednesday, the 250th anniversary of President Jackson’s birth, Donald Trump laid a wreath at the tomb of his early predecessor, known as Old Hickory, to whom he likes to compare himself. Both were outsiders.

There is a further link between the Scots Irish and President Trump – much of his support came from anti elitist Scots Irish voters, according to the tycoon JD Vance, author of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’.

This week Ian Paisley Junior MP was building on that possible bridge between Northern Ireland and the president, who is a golf lover and golf course owner, by inviting him to visit our world class courses.

In much the same way that Theresa May was right to establish warm relations with Mr Trump to help advance Brexit, we also need to cultivate such contacts.

Mr Trump’s behaviour has often been unconventional, at times even unfortunate, and only this week his White House had to beat an embarrassing retreat on the GCHQ spy claims. But we are in no position to lecture a superpower of 300 million people on who it chooses as its leader. There are strong historical links between here and that great country, and the current administration brings them perhaps closer still.