Sunday 11 December 2016

Kenny won't meet Trump as tycoon set for Irish visit

Headache for security as Trump and Vice-President Biden make trip here

Ronald Quinlan, Philip Ryan and Jim Cusack

Published 05/06/2016 | 02:30

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to a campaign rally in Redding, California. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives to a campaign rally in Redding, California. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will not be meeting US presidential candidate Donald Trump when the billionaire businessman visits Ireland later this month.

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While the exact details of the billionaire businessman's visit to his golf resort at Doonbeg in Co Clare have yet to be finalised, he is expected to arrive in the country between June 22 and June 25, triggering a potential political and diplomatic headache for the Government in the process.

When Mr Trump last visited Doonbeg in 2014, he received the full red carpet treatment at Shannon Airport and was welcomed personally by Finance Minister Michael Noonan, much to the derision of opposition politicians.

This time around and with the most powerful political office in the world in his sights, the attitude within Government Buildings towards the controversial real estate tycoon has hardened considerably.

A senior Cabinet source said such a meeting "[would] not arise on this occasion" as Mr Trump was merely a candidate for the Republican Party nomination.

"I don't think on this occasion there is any need to meet him. He's coming to see his golf course. It isn't an official visit," the source said.

In the course of a Dail debate last Tuesday, the Taoiseach found himself in an invidious position as Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin pursued him on the question of whether he would host Mr Trump during his visit "as part of an attempt to moderate his image in the coming months".

While Mr Kenny sought initially to deflect the question, he bowed to further pressure from Mr Martin, saying: "If Trump's comments are racist and dangerous, which they are, there is an alternative to vote for."

Mr Trump, for his part, would appear to be taking the controversy surrounding his upcoming visit and the growing sense of panic within Government in his stride.

Responding to a series of questions from the Sunday Independent in which he was asked for his reaction to the Taoiseach's comments, Mr Trump's campaign communications manager, Hope Hicks, said simply: "Mr Trump looks forward to his visit."

The simultaneous timing of Mr Trump's visit with that of the current US Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, is presenting a major security headache for both the Government and the gardai.

Having been accorded presidential candidate status since last November, Mr Trump's visit to his golf resort in Doonbeg will necessitate a major security operation.

Mr Biden's visit to Dublin as part of his tour to support the British Prime Minister David Cameron's campaign against an EU exit by the UK will also present a major challenge for the State, but is seen as less problematic than Mr Trump's visit.

According to senior security sources, Mr Trump's visit presents major logistical and manpower issues for the gardai, who are being blamed for an embarrassing lapse of security at the British Army 1916 memorial at the Commonwealth Graves' Commission cemetery at Grangegorman in Dublin.

The 59-year-old Canadian Ambassador, Kevin Vickers, had to intervene to remove a republican protester who disrupted the service.

Garda sources said the visits of Mr Trump and Mr Biden will pose "very significant" operational issues as the garda undercover and armed units are at the "pin of their collar" trying to keep a lid on the Kinahan-Hutch gangland feud.

Sunday Independent

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