Thursday 22 August 2019

Brexit will be 'very, very good' for Ireland, says Trump as he touches down at Shannon Airport

  • US President and wife Melania Trump touch down at Shannon Airport for trip to Doonbeg
  • US President had to be corrected by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as he seemed to suggest Ireland wanted a border
  • Taoiseach later defends Trump's comments: 'There are nearly 200 countries in the world. I don't think it's possible for him to have an in-depth and detailed understanding of all the issues in every single country'
  • Varadkar also defends the €10m cost for security during the visit
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Supt Brendan McDonagh watches over things in the Garda strategic operations control centre inside Shannon Garda station. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Rose Hynes (Chairman odf the Shannon Group) and Pat Breen wait on the tarmac of Shannon Airport to meet US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Rose Hynes (Chairman odf the Shannon Group) and Pat Breen wait on the tarmac of Shannon Airport to meet US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. Picture; Gerry Mooney
The Garda strategic operations control centre inside Shannon Garda station. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)

Kevin Doyle and Nicola Anderson

US President Donald Trump has predicted that Brexit will be "very, very good" for Ireland.

But during a brief media appearance at Shannon Airport, the US President had to be corrected by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as he seemed to suggest Ireland wanted a border.

"I think it'll all work out very well for you, with your wall, your border. We have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here," Mr Trump said.

Mr Varadkar interrupted briefly to remind him: "The thing we want to avoid, of course, is a border or a wall."

Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)

Asked by Independent.ie if he understood that Brexit would be bad for Ireland, Mr Trump said it could actually be "very, very good".

He acknowledged the border question is "a big point of contention with respect to Brexit".

"The big thing is going to be your border. Hopefully that will work out. I think it will work out.

"There's a lot of good minds thinking about how to do it. It's going to be just fine," he said.

The president, who touched down in Ireland shortly before 5pm, denied any knowledge of recent criticism of his climate change policy by President Michael D Higgins.

He batted away questions about climate action, saying America has the "best air quality in the world".

Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)

Mr Trump said he was "honoured" to be in Ireland, on what is his first visit since becoming president.

He said relations between the two countries are "as good as it's ever been, maybe better".

"We have millions of Irish and I think I know most of them because they are my friends," Mr Trump said.

The Irish Government want to use the meeting with Mr Trump to push for progress on the issue of E3 visas.

Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Donald Trump and wife Melania touch down at Shannon Airport (Photo: Gerry Mooney)

The permits, which are currently only given to Australian citizens, allow people to live and work in the United States for two years.

Major efforts have been made to extend the right to Irish citizens but it was blocked by just one Republican senator, Tom Cotton.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Rose Hynes (Chairman odf the Shannon Group) and Pat Breen wait on the tarmac of Shannon Airport to meet US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Rose Hynes (Chairman odf the Shannon Group) and Pat Breen wait on the tarmac of Shannon Airport to meet US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. Picture; Gerry Mooney

Mr Trump said the senator is "a great person".

"He doesn't mean to do any harm, that I can tell you. He loves Ireland actually."

The President said he wants to get a deal on visas across the line for Ireland.

Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)

"I think we're going to be in good shape. If we get a unanimous vote, we do something that we've been trying to do for a long time. I want to do it for the people of Ireland but I want to do it better in the United States," he said.

Mr Trump was asked whether his visit to Ireland was essentially a PR exercise for his hotel in Doonbeg. He denied this was the case, insisting he was here because of the special relationship between Ireland and the United States.

"This trip is really about great relationships that we have with the UK and I really wanted to do this stop in Ireland because of the relationship I have with the people and with your prime minister," he said.

Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)

In the absence of the media, the Taoiseach explained to his guest why people on this island want to avoid a hard border.

Afterwards, Mr Varadkar told reporters: "He's the president of America. There are nearly 200 countries in the world. I don't think it's possible for him to have an in-depth and detailed understanding of all the issues in every single country, which is why the engagement is important."

Mr Varadkar said Mr Trump had heard from a lot of politicians in the UK who are in favour of Brexit and heard "a certain story from them".

Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)
Anti-Trump protest held in Shannon to coincide with US President Trump's visit (Photo: Gerry Mooney)

"I used the opportunity of this meeting to point out the issues from Ireland that arise from Brexit," he said.

Mr Trump acknowledged that the Irish border is a "sticking point" but said he believes it can remain open.

"He didn't go into any particular detail for how he thinks it can be done," the Taoiseach said.

The President also failed to elaborate during the private meeting on why he believes Brexit will ultimately be good for Ireland.

Mr Varadkar has also defended the €10m cost for security during the visit.

"I do think Shannon and Co Clare are good places to visit. I think that's a good message going to America."

He added: "Much more important than security costs is the relationship between Ireland and the United States. A massive economic power. A massive political power. The good bilateral relationship between Ireland and America is worth a lot more than €10m."

Security

At a press conference at Shannon town earlier, Chief Superintendent Michael Gubbins said they have 1,500 members on the ground for the duration of Trump's visit.

He said it was “quite a large operation” and that the last time they had one of this scale was the visit of former US President George Bush in 2004.

Inside the Strategic Control Centre set up especially at the Garda station in Shannon, which is being manned on a 24 hour basis, officers were keeping a close eye on large screens showing CCTV footage from cameras at Doonbeg Golf Resort, Shannon airport and approaching roads.

About a dozen additional cameras had been installed especially for the duration of the visit by President Trump.

They also have access to a live feed from the Garda helicopter when Airforce One arrives.

Another map on screen showed the location of all the Garda radios on the ground.

Superintendent Liam Geraghty of the Garda Press Office said they have human rights advisers, tactical advisers on fire arms and a negotiators advisers all on site.

Meanwhile on the outskirts of Shannon airport, the Peace Camp for protesters hung several banners reading “US war machine out of Shannon” on the bridges approaching the airport.

Donald Trump will host a brief press conference before he travels to Doonbeg with his wife for a private dinner this evening.

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