Friday 23 August 2019

Doonbeg all aflutter over Trump's visit

The flags and bunting are out in the village, but there is also disquiet about the US president dropping in, writes Donal Lynch

ON A WAVE: Tommy Tubridy on Doonbeg’s main street ahead of the visit of president Donald Trump. Picture: Gerry Mooney
ON A WAVE: Tommy Tubridy on Doonbeg’s main street ahead of the visit of president Donald Trump. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

The American bunting flutters festively above Doonbeg's main street and the buzz around Donald Trump's imminent visit is palpable.

At the edge of the village, the Stars and Stripes flies from the gable of every other house, making this seem, for the moment, like a patriotic corner of New England.

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In Tubridy's Bar, publican Tommy Tubridy uses his famously deft pouring skills to create the letters 'T-R-U-M-P' in the creamy foam of a pint.

It might be difficult to imagine Donald and Melania dancing at these crossroads but their visit will put this tiny Clare village on the map.

Donald has already visited Doonbeg, the golf resort he bought for €15m two years before he was elected the world's most powerful man, but never as president, and now they are preparing to roll out the red carpet for him.

The local priest, Fr Joe Haugh, has already said Trump is going to heaven.

In other European countries, Trump has been told to go to hell. In London they had their infamous baby blimp. In Scotland they mooned his plane. Trump's harshest critics have compared him to the fascists of the 1930s, but Doonbeg is no Irish Vichy.

Between the prayers and hosannas, there is also an acute awareness in the village that it might well be a lonely outpost of enthusiasm for The Donald, whose polices and contentious remarks have left many here uneasy about his visit.

Leo Varadkar has already said he "welcomes" protests against Trump and admitted that he would have voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election of 2016.

His statements were probably reflective of a wider opposition to this most divisive of American presidents. An open letter to Trump in the Clare Champion reminded the president of the importance of emigration, and people living in the village say they expect protests on Wednesday and Thursday.

The disquiet around Trump is also to be felt in Doonbeg. An American woman, who identifies herself as a member of the Democratic Party, tells the Sunday Independent that she took down the American flag last week which usually sits in front of her Clare home.

Others emphasise that Doonbeg is pragmatically holding its nose for the arrival of the Trumps. "Of course the resort has done great things for the area but I have to say I wouldn't be a fan of his politics at all," says Sarah McInerney, whose family own a shop in the village. "I think you have to sort of separate the man from the office. It's the American president we are welcoming."

Sentiments like these, as well as Varadkar's comments about Trump, might be part of the reason the US president pulled the ultimate power move of inviting the Taoiseach to come south to his unofficial embassy: his golf resort.

Yesterday the place was bare of bunting as it prepared for another wedding. The only clue of the imminent arrival comes from the sight of American secret service agents practising a helicopter landing on the lawn.

Communication masts have also been erected around the property and a heavy Garda presence was noticeable yesterday.

Resort manager Joe Russell says he expects Trump will play a bit of golf when he comes, and that usually he chats to fellow players and staff.

"He is passionate about golf," says Russell, who adds that Melania is "elegant and kind".

Most of the businesses in the village have extended invitations to the Trumps, but it's not yet known if he will go on a walkabout.

Caroline Kennedy, who owns the Igoe Inn in Doonbeg, says Trump could teach Varadkar a thing or two. "We didn't elect him ourselves, but we look at him as a businessman who has brought investment to the town," she says.

"When you're from a part of rural Ireland that has been neglected like this, you look at someone like Donald Trump and think: I wish our own politicians were as good as him."

Sunday Independent

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