Irish civil rights groups may not have been able to keep Mike Pence out of the country, but at least they could throw a good party while he was there.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Dáil, a house of the Irish legislature, for the fittingly named “Disco at the Dáil” on September 3rd. Participants waved rainbow flags, wore masks with Mike Pence’s face, and danced to music by The Village People and RuPaul.
Colm O. Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland, said LGBTQ+ organizers in Washington, D.C. staged similar protests after Donald Trump’s election.
“Today was a both a celebration of who we are in Ireland now, as well as a show of solidarity to those being hurt by the Trump/ Pence administration’s policies,” Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, tells Out in a statement.
Organizers called the event “a celebration of all the people that Pence and Trump’s cruel policies are hurting; women, refugees, migrants, and [LGBTQ+] people,” while Amnesty added that the event was intended to show Pence that he can’t go back to the USA and say that Ireland supports him.”
Pence will almost certainly go back to the U.S., however, and say Ireland supports him, given his warm reception from elected leaders. In planning the trip, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Pence several months ago: "I really hope you will be able to accept my invitation to Ireland very soon and I can guarantee you a very warm welcome is waiting for you.”
In a statement, the White House reported that “the vice president underscored the unwavering strength of the U.S.-Ireland relationship.” There was no mention of the dancing protestors.
The meeting is also being used to claim that Pence, who passed a “turn away the gays” law as the governor of Indiana, is supportive of LGBTQ+ people. Judd Deere, a press secretary for the Trump administration, suggested on Twitter that Pence couldn’t be anti-gay because he was scheduled to meet with an openly gay elected official and his husband.
The two previously held a closed-door meeting in March 2018 in which Varadkar reportedly raised the issue of LGBTQ+ rights, but it doesn’t appear to have changed the vice president’s mind on the subject.
Pence’s family are recent immigrants to the United States, having come from the Irish county of Sligo in 1923. Had Pence’s grandfather waited a few more months to immigrate, he might have been turned away: Congress passed a racist immigration act in 1924 that restricted or banned certain groups from entering the United States.
Representatives for local immigration groups spoke at the protest, including Pippa Woolnough of the Immigrant Council of Ireland “Everyone has the right to apply for international protection,” Woolnough said, as the Irish Times was the first to report. “No child should ever be detained.”
Pence’s meetings with Irish officials reportedly touched on human rights, climate change, and immigration. Pence has faced criticism during the trip for staying at a Trump-owned hotel nearly 200 miles away from the locations where his meetings were scheduled. Pence also gave a speech in which he sided with the Brexit campaign to dissolve the U.K.’s membership in the E.U.