Saturday 22 October 2016

We're with Trump: greening of a maverick's campaign

Polls suggest majority of Irish Americans are for the Republican candidate.

Graham Clifford

Published 26/06/2016 | 02:30

'Miffed': Dublin-born Republican supporter Diarmuid Hogan with Enda Kenny in New York last year
'Miffed': Dublin-born Republican supporter Diarmuid Hogan with Enda Kenny in New York last year
A thousand welcomes: Trump is greeted by Finance Minister Michael Noonan at Shannon Airport in 2014.

'Do I cringe sometimes when I hear Trump say something outlandish? Yes, sure I do… but I know that he's super-intelligent and a street-fighter. He can sort out the myriad of social problems that exist in the US today. Trump gets himself noticed by saying outrageous things but there's so much more to him than rhetoric," says Gerry Dunleavy.

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If the Donald pops into his hotel and golf resort in Doonbeg today and reads this, he'll surely blush.

It was 1978 when a young Gerry crossed the Atlantic, eventually settling in the affluent suburb of Winchester, north of Boston. He left Doolin, Co Clare, and would go on to marry Toni from Clontarf and have five children. Like a significant number of Irish people in the US, Gerry, who owns a successful construction company, is adamant that having a President Trump would be good for the country he now calls home.

Indeed, a recent poll by the US-based website found that of 5,400 Irish-American voters polled, 52pc of respondents said they would back Trump in the presidential election as opposed to just 34pc for the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

What's more, Trump fared particularly well in suburbs considered to have very strong Irish-American populations in the primaries - especially in parts of New York and even conservative Massachusetts.

"We are sick and tired of how America has been run under President Obama and want a change, we're crying out for it - Donald Trump can deliver that change," says Gerry. "During this Obama administration, businesses across America have been crippled with fees and regulation.

"We have to take control of the country again. There's a growing drugs problem, a migrant problem, people are dying on the streets.

"We need someone like Trump to roll up his sleeves and sort this out."

I ask Gerry if he's concerned by Trump's provocative remarks about political opponents, women, Muslims, migrants, Mexicans and other groups. Or about how his remarks could heighten security risks in the US rather than quell them?

"Look, as the campaign progresses, I believe he will tone it down. He knows he has to. Keep in mind he has, to date, funded his campaign on a relatively tight budget and getting constant publicity is key for him," says Gerry.

Locals in Doonbeg, Co Clare, where Trump's Irish hotel is located, are hoping the newest member of the village's business community pops in this week to play a round of golf - and the red, white and blue bunting is at the ready.

They've been labelled 'wing men for the right wing' and even mocked, in some circles, for putting self-interest and personal gain ahead of wider political considerations, but as one local farmer told me on a recent visit: "It's all well and good to talk about his [Trump's] views on world politics but that's not much use to a young lad around here whose only hope of a job is up at the hotel."

In Tubridy's Bar in Doonbeg, the lady of the house, Bridget, told me: "Trump is Trump. There'll always be those who don't support him. But as business people here in Doonbeg, we'd be happy if he became president."

Putting their collective shoulders to the Trump wheel this week were 11 organisations in Doonbeg and scores of locals who lodged submissions with Clare County Council backing Trump's plan for a 200,000 tonne, 2.8km-long rock barrier across the stunning Doughmore Beach.

Seventy-six of the 112 submissions made to the council support the controversial €10m development, including 36 from locals, 15 from golf club members and 14 from non-locals. Only one local man objected to the sea wall.

Support for the Donald in Doonbeg is undoubted and Twitter accounts such as 'Irish For Trump' are attracting followers in big numbers, too. Among those following this particular site is former Renua leader Lucinda Creighton - though following a Twitter account does not equate to endorsement of it.

I did manage to communicate with those behind the 'Irish For Trump!' Twitter account but they were unwilling to answer my questions. Though the location of the site's base is listed as 'Ireland', it has the twitter handle @ToryIreland.

Across social media you'll find a range of sites and accounts dedicated to the 'Irish' or 'Ireland' for Trump - though none seem to be based here.

Long-time Republican supporter and campaigner Diarmuid Hogan is continuously miffed with the support of Irish people for the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and he plans to vote for Trump. "It's mind-boggling," he tells me from his home in South Carolina, "Obama and Hillary want to penalise American companies based in Ireland, threatening Irish jobs and the Irish economy. Only for the Republicans in the Senate, Ireland would already be paying the price for these Democrat Party policies. Donald Trump may be something of a flawed candidate - but I'll be voting for him to make sure Ireland doesn't get hit by Clinton when it comes to taxation and business."

Diarmuid, born and reared in the Dublin suburb of Marino, is the President and CEO of Global Excess Partners - a specialty insurance organisation that offers underwriting programmes on behalf of Lloyd's of London and other world carriers. He's also involved in other businesses in the States and co-owns a restaurant with the Northern Irish band Snow Patrol.

He tells me he played a round of golf with Trump four years ago and described him as being "at times distant but also witty, overpowering and a typical New Yorker".

And while Diarmuid tells me he voted for Marco Rubio in the South Carolina Republican primary, with Ted Cruz his second choice for Republican nominee, he now believes Trump has what it takes to pip Hillary to the most powerful office on the globe.

"A lot depends on Obama," says Diarmuid.

"If he does something stupid in his last six months, and he is prone to that, then it could play into Trump's hands. Also, many believe the Justice Department here may yet decide to indict Hillary Clinton. Trump will surround himself with clever people, as he does in business, he'll be populist and the nearer we get to polling day, the more people will move to him. I know that so many in the Irish community here in the States will... because really, it's a no-brainer."

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