Saturday 24 August 2019

Donald Trump jets out of Ireland after round of golf at Doonbeg

President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, waves as they depart Shannon Airport, Friday, June 7, 2019, in Shannon, Ireland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, waves as they depart Shannon Airport, Friday, June 7, 2019, in Shannon, Ireland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump gives thumbs up before departing Shannon Airport, Friday, June 7, 2019, in Shannon, Ireland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Handout photo issued by True Media of Donald Trump (left) and his wife Melania Trump (second left), as they prepared to depart from Shannon Airport on Friday after their two day visit to Ireland

Cate McCurry and Aoife Moore

Donald Trump has ended his first presidential visit to Ireland by playing golf at his luxury coastal resort.

Mr Trump and First Lady Melania Trump flew out of Shannon Airport in Air Force One on Friday afternoon having spent two nights at his nearby five-star hotel in Doonbeg, Co Clare.

The president met local schoolchildren on the golf course during his round on Friday morning.

Standing by the ninth green, the pupils caught Mr Trump's attention by waving American flags and were invited by the Secret Service to come and meet the president.

Handout photo issued by True Media of Donald Trump (left) and his wife Melania Trump (second left), as they prepared to depart from Shannon Airport on Friday after their two day visit to Ireland
Handout photo issued by True Media of Donald Trump (left) and his wife Melania Trump (second left), as they prepared to depart from Shannon Airport on Friday after their two day visit to Ireland

Abbi Shanahan, 16, said the president was "so sound".

"He just told us to stay in school and asked if there'd be any future Taoiseach's, but I don't know about that - I'm a bit young yet," she said.

Abbi was not so sure about his golfing talents though.

"I don't know about his golfing, one of his shots went down into the dunes anyway, down beside the beach," she said.

The president posed for a few pictures with the children who then treated him to a rendition of the song My Lovely Rose of Clare.

The encounter came at the end of the Trumps' largely private visit to Ireland.

The only formal engagement came on Wednesday, when Mr Trump met Irish premier Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport for talks on Brexit, trade and visa issues impacting Irish citizens wanting to travel and live in the US.

On Thursday evening, Mr Trump spent some time chatting to guests and taking selfies following a dinner at the plush Trump International Golf Links and Hotel.

President Donald Trump gives thumbs up before departing Shannon Airport, Friday, June 7, 2019, in Shannon, Ireland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump gives thumbs up before departing Shannon Airport, Friday, June 7, 2019, in Shannon, Ireland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The dinner, which was hosted by Mr Trump's chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, was described as a relaxed event, with fish, chips and steak on the menu.

Stephen Kearon, a former Irish Government special adviser, was among the guests.

He said: "It was very relaxed and Mr Trump was chatting a lot and smiling a lot.

"People were walking in and out of the room, it was very casual. His two sons were up at the bar chatting away."

Mr Trump sat beside his wife and White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.

Other guests attending the dinner included senator Mark Daly, special envoy to Washington John Deasy and Irish ambassador to the US Dan Mulhall.

Ms Sanders and a number of other White House staff went into Doonbeg village on Thursday night, where they spent some time listening to traditional Irish music in one of the pubs.

Local people were hoping Mr Trump would also visit the rural village but the president did not venture out of the hotel.

In Dublin on Thursday evening, about 2,000 people marched through the city centre in a noisy and colourful protest against Mr Trump's visit to Ireland.

A much smaller number of activists held a three-day vigil outside Shannon Airport.

Campaigners claim the use of the airport as a refuelling stop for US military aircraft flying to and from operations in the Middle East is a breach of Ireland's neutrality.

The scenes of protest contrasted with the warm welcome the president received in Doonbeg, a village that has experienced an economic boom since Mr Trump invested in the golf resort.

On Wednesday night, two of his sons visited a number of pubs, pulling pints for revellers.

Eric and Donald Jnr chatted with villagers and posed for selfies with children.

They received loud cheers after asking: "Does Doonbeg love Trump?"

Hugh McNally, a bar owner in Doonbeg and a distant cousin of vice-president Mike Pence, spoke about his encounter with Eric and Donald Jnr when they visited his pub.

"It was amazing," he said on Friday.

"They've been in half a dozen times. They are great and every time they do come over they make a point of coming to visit people and ask how things are. We really appreciate it all."

On Thursday, Eric tweeted: "Ireland, thank you for the incredible support! We love you!"

During a meeting with Taoiseach Mr Varadkar shortly after arriving on Ireland's west coast on Wednesday, Mr Trump drew a parallel with his planned wall between the United States and Mexico as he expressed confidence the Brexit logjam over the Irish border would work out "very well".

Mr Trump also predicted Brexit could be "very, very good for Ireland".

The president agreed the current free-flowing Irish border should be preserved.

The Trump family visit prompted a massive security operation in west Co Clare.

A ring of steel was erected around the five-star Doonbeg resort.

About 1.8 miles (3km) of barriers and 1.8 miles of 6ft-high fencing were put in place for the visit.

Some 1,500 gardai were drafted in throughout the area for three days.

PA Media

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News