Christian beliefs of Trump’s number two should be treated with respect, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

Published: 8 July 2019

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and his partner Matt Barrett (right) with US Vice President Mike Pence and Mr Pence’s sister Anne Pence during a visit to the US for St Patrick’s Day

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and his partner Matt Barrett (right) with US Vice President Mike Pence and Mr Pence’s sister Anne Pence during a visit to the US for St Patrick’s Day

On Friday internet publication addressed itself to the news that the US Vice President Mike Pence is expected to visit Ireland in September.

An invitation had been extended by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, it explained, “when he and his partner Matt Barrett met Pence and his sister Anne during the Washington St Patrick’s Day celebrations in March”.

All the article said about Pence was that in the past he had “come under fire for expressing support for conversion therapy for members of the LGBT+ community”, and had also “been criticised for what opponents describe as a hardline anti-abortion stance”.

Suggestions for adding to the charge sheet included “he’s a creationist, doesn’t believe in climate change at all, and thinks smoking doesn’t kill. He also wants creationism taught in schools!”.

“I don’t think we’ve had a more brain-dead ‘diplomat’ visit us. Off the charts!” was another.

“Sexist Homophobe. Stay out,” was a recommendation in another response to the article.

There were, however, some positive comments querying some of the allegations and pointing out some truths, like: “Funny how we welcome the Chinese premier with open arms…”

And: “It is a huge honour. We’ve a tiny country and the VP of the most influential country is visiting here. Think outside the predictable box and stop being a sheep.”

Pence describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order”, so it’s no surprise that he is found offensive by the evangelical secularists who now dominate debate in the Republic.

It’s another headache for Sinn Fein’s poor Mary Lou McDonald, who wants to please the Left while hanging on to her conservative Irish-American moneybags. A large amount of Sinn Fein’s American money comes from the construction industry and trade unions – not exactly hotbeds of social progressiveness.

Indeed, there will be plenty of people in there who were outraged by Hillary Clinton’s fateful description, before the election, of half of Donald Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables… racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, you name it”.

She followed that up by recommending her supporters to “just eliminate… the deplorables from your thinking, because we’ve always had an annoying prejudicial element within our politics”.

As Governor Pence pointed out at the time, millions of Trump supporters are “hard-working Americans, farmers, coalminers, teachers, veterans, members of our law enforcement community, members of every class of this country… they are Americans and they deserve your respect”.

Clinton tried to make up for her tin ear and crass stupidity by saying subsequently that she shouldn’t have said “half”, and explaining that non-deplorable Trump supporters deserved empathy because of their economic anxiety.

Anyone notice the similarities with how some angry Remainers talk about those of us who had the temerity to decide we wanted our freedom from the EU? We’re either evil or half-wits.

One of them, with whom I’d been on friendly terms for 25 years, told me he’d rather spend the evening with a child molester than a Leave voter.

That kind of bigotry is really not a smart way to win people over to your way of thinking.

Mr Pence believes that homosexuality is a sin and, of course, disapproves of same-sex marriage and plenty else, but he invited the Taoiseach’s partner Matt Barrett to the annual Vice President’s breakfast at his official residence, greeted him warmly and spoke with great warmth of his Irish grandfather Richard Michael Cawley and his pride in his heritage.

Cawley “was proud of being American but I can still hear that Irish brogue”.

Ireland should be welcoming this representative of the country we need most with the same courtesy he showed the Taoiseach.

As another commentator remarked: “Absolutely no problem with Vice President Pence visiting. He extends full respect to our politicians when they visit the US.”

And that’s the key to it, isn’t it? Do as you would be done by.

It’s worth remembering that at his Saint Patrick’s Day breakfast the musical performers were Northern Ireland’s award-winning modern hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty.

Vice President Pence is a traditional Christian with many beliefs that the majority of Irish people only recently jettisoned and a minority still strongly hold to.

That doesn’t make him or them deplorable.

Outraged progressives should get over it.

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