TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has responded to US President Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico saying: “I don’t believe in building walls, I believe in building bridges”.
He also said the only place such a wall has been effective is Israel’s barrier with the Palestinian Territories and it’s “awful”.
Mr Varadkar’s remarks come after Mr Trump’s Oval Office address to the American people where he urged Congress to give him $5.7bn to build the wall.
Mr Trump blamed the Democrats for a partial government shut-down in the US amid the row over the wall.
He said the situation at the US border with Mexico is a “humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul”.
Mr Trump said 90pc of the heroin sold in the US comes from Mexico and also referred to cases of Americans “savagely murdered in cold blood” by immigrants.
Mr Varadkar was asked about Mr Trump’s plans for the wall during his visit to Africa.
He said: “Generally speaking I don’t believe in building walls, I believe in building bridges.
“And when we’ve been discussing Brexit and the need to avoid a hard border, among the people who have intuitively understood the issue are of course the Germans because of their history of partition and of course because a wall was put up between West and East Berlin.”
He said he believes it’s one reason Ireland has had such strong support from Germany during the Brexit process.
Mr Varadkar added: “Obviously any decision on whether a wall is built between Mexico and the United States is a matter for the US Government and the Mexican Government, of course, but my experience is that walls don’t stop people.
“People dig tunnels and people use ladders, and unless it is highly fortified and highly policed, it is not going to be effective.
“There is an effective wall between Israel and the Palestinian Territories, but I don’t think anybody would want to see that kind of wall built anywhere else in the world. I’ve seen it and it’s awful.”
Mr Varadkar said he wouldn’t like to see a wall like that anywhere else in the world but added: “that’s not my call”.
He said: “It’s a border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that I’m working on avoiding at the moment. That’s my priority.”
Mr Varadkar said there’s been no contact from the White House about plans for a Presidential visit to Ireland.
There had been plans for Mr Trump to visit Ireland last November but they were cancelled.
Mr Varadkar said: “I will be in the White House in March to meet President Trump, but we have had no contact from them about a renewed visit to Ireland at this stage.”
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