Sunday 11 December 2016

Cabinet split over Trump visit

Varadkar says he would meet US presidential hopeful - and tell him to his face he's a 'misogynist'

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Published 04/06/2016 | 02:30

Donald Trump arrives at Shannon Airport on his visit to Ireland in 2014, when he had a look at work at the Doonbeg golf course. Photo: Sean Curtin
Donald Trump arrives at Shannon Airport on his visit to Ireland in 2014, when he had a look at work at the Doonbeg golf course. Photo: Sean Curtin

The Cabinet is split over whether official meetings should be arranged with US presidential candidate Donald Trump when he visits Ireland later this month.

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Mr Trump's announcement of his plans to visit Doonbeg in Co Clare yesterday took senior Government figures by complete surprise.

The visit will take place around the same time British voters take part in the EU referendum, as well US Vice President Joe Biden's official trip to Ireland.

However, the planned visit immediately became shrouded in controversy as a result of Mr Trump's previous comments about women, Muslims and Mexicans.

During a Dáil debate last week, Taoiseach Mr Kenny labelled Mr Trump "racist" and "dangerous".

And several ministers refused to commit to meeting the controversial US businessman. They included Mr Kenny, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Education Minister Richard Bruton and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan

Finance Minister Michael Noonan sits next to Ivanka Trump during her father’s speech at the airport. Photo: PA
Finance Minister Michael Noonan sits next to Ivanka Trump during her father’s speech at the airport. Photo: PA

The Government's official line was issued from the Taoiseach's office: "Mr Trump, like every tourist, will be more than welcome to Ireland and we hope he has a pleasant stay."

But, despite describing Mr Trump's attitude towards women as "misogynistic" during the week, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said he would meet him.

"I meet people I disagree with all the time. I'd also say what I said to his face," Mr Varadkar told the Irish Independent.

His Fine Gael colleague, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, agreed. His spokesman said: "The minister understands that Mr Trump is visiting in a private capacity. Minister Creed is willing to meet with visitors if requested to discuss potential trade opportunities for the Irish agri-food sector."

Doonbeg golf course. Photo: PA
Doonbeg golf course. Photo: PA

Minister for Disabilities Finian McGrath emphasised that, while he does not agree with all of Mr Trump's political views, he likened the idea of shunning the US businessman to "modern-day political correctness", adding: "I don't believe in the business of not talking to people."

A spokesman for Communications Minister Denis Naughten said he believed a meeting with Mr Trump "would result in an interesting political debate".

Meanwhile, People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett, launched a stinging attack on Mr Trump, who he described as a "dangerous and vile racist", a "warmonger" and "sexist".

Mr Boyd Barrett told Indepenent.ie's political podcast 'The Floating Voter' that he and his colleagues would be holding a protest during the visit.

Gardaí are already planning a major security operation to protect Mr Biden in Ireland.

Gardaí and the Defence Forces will need to spend around €5m on the Biden visit, with parts of the Phoenix Park likely to be off-limits to the public.

"Things are already stretched because of Biden - gardaí will have to mount operations everywhere he goes during the four days," said a source.

In total, it is estimated that about 2,000 personnel will be involved in the Biden plan.

A separate plan will now have to be put in place for Doonbeg.

"It would seem inevitable that there will be a mixture of protesters, people who just want to see Trump, and media - so a big security operation will be needed around the village," said a source.

Irish Independent

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