Tuesday 15 October 2019

Nicola Anderson: 'Clever pupils on the ball to meet Trump on golf links'

Final day of visit

Pupils and teachers from Clohanes NS, along with local people, meeting US President Donald Trump at his golf resort in Doonbeg, Co Clare. Photo: PA
Pupils and teachers from Clohanes NS, along with local people, meeting US President Donald Trump at his golf resort in Doonbeg, Co Clare. Photo: PA

Ralph Riegel and Nicola Anderson

Doonbeg heaved a sigh of relief as its own D-Day (D for Donald) went off without a hitch.

The west Clare village savoured 72 hours of priceless tourism promotion - and the Trump family saw their luxury golf resort put centre stage in international media coverage.

A delighted President Donald Trump even interrupted his round of golf at Doonbeg yesterday morning to meet teachers and students from Clohanes National School, who had taken a strategic location near the ninth hole.

Even Mother Nature seemed to be co-operating with the White House programme. Skies cleared and Mr Trump enjoyed glorious sunshine for his round of golf before he prepared to depart Shannon Airport on Air Force One.

Clohanes NS principal Aideen O'Mahoney and three other teachers had taken a strategic position close to the school which overlooks the ninth fairway at Doonbeg.

The primary school is less than 1km from the luxury golf resort. Aideen's family farm is adjacent to the Doonbeg course so she knew precisely where to get the best view of Mr Trump's group. .

The family had even provided land for the golf course.

"There were four teachers and 27 children," Aideen said. "We were looking out over the course when a garda and a Secret Service agent came over to us.

"They told us President Trump wanted to meet the teachers and the children. Then we were told that he would come to meet us rather than us going to meet him."

Mr Trump happily posed for photos with teachers including Michelle Crowley, Mary Kelly and Theresa Clancy.

The children serenaded the president with 'My Lovely Rose of Clare' with Mr Trump spending more than 10 minutes with them. "It was very, very nice of him," she said.

"He was lovely to us and really nice to the children. Everyone was really delighted to get to meet him. To be honest, we were totally gobsmacked. It was a once in a lifetime experience."

The president was golfing with Doonbeg manager Joe Russell, who has been running the resort for over 13 years.

Adding another close family connection to the presidential visit to Doonbeg for Aideen was the fact her nephew, Seán Conway, was acting as caddy for Mr Trump during his morning round of golf.

"It was amazing," she said.

Brid Ryan had three of her children in the group that met Mr Trump - Eoibheann, Alisha and Ian. "They were delighted that they got to meet him."

Aideen's mother Marita and her aunt Marian were also present to meet the president.

"We went back to get a glimpse of him. It worked out. But we weren't even dressed for the occasion. We were surprised," she said.

When introduced to Mr Trump by her daughter, Marita said the president smiled at her and said: "Job well done."

The Shanahan family home is only 50 metres from the golf course. Marian said the Trump involvement at Doonbeg has been a great thing.

"Because if he wasn't here all those people might be over in England or in America. They are very happy with him here."

However, other schoolchildren were disappointed when First Lady Melania Trump didn't visit Doonbeg National School, as was widely rumoured. A large media entourage gathered at the Doonbeg village school from 9am, awaiting a visit that never materialised.

Principal Neil Crowley said a presidential visit to the school would have been "a dream come true".

"We were all very excited to hear that there might be a visit by the First Lady," he said.

"The [Trump] involvement in the resort has been very good for the area. We have seen a lot of jobs created locally."

The school has three teachers and a total of 52 children.

Mr Trump's visit also proved a godsend for Doonbeg publicans - with Morrisseys, Comerfords, Tubridys, Madigans and The Igoe Inn all enjoying a roaring trade.

Even White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sampled some Irish pub revelry when she made a surprise visit to Comerfords late on Thursday evening.

Flanked by her Secret Service detail, the US press adviser enjoyed some singing and a rendition of 'Black is the Colour'. Leaving the pub, she said she loved her time in Ireland and was proud of her strong Irish connections through her mother's family.

Her visit followed the headline-grabbing appearance in Doonbeg village on Wednesday evening by President Trump's two sons, Donald Junior and Eric.

They visited all five pubs in the village, insisted on pulling pints themselves and stood a round for everyone in the pubs. Igoe Inn owner Caroline Kennedy said it had been an amazing few days for the village.

Irish Independent

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