Wednesday 23 January 2019

Could a visit to Ireland still be on the cards? Trump’s economic chief ‘not convinced’ US President’s trip is cancelled

Donald Trump (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart)
Donald Trump (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart)

Rachel Farrell

The chief economist to the White House said he is “not convinced” that the planned visit of US President Donald Trump to Ireland has been cancelled.

Yesterday, sources said that the controversial trip, planned for November 12, would no longer go ahead.

A Government spokesperson confirmed to that the trip wouldn’t go ahead for “scheduling reasons” but the White House said it has not yet made a final decision on whether US President Donald Trump will make a stop in Ireland as part of his trip to Paris later this autumn.

"The president will travel to Paris in November as previously announced. We are still finalizing whether Ireland will be a stop on that trip. As details are confirmed we will let you know,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

Kevin Hassett, who will address business executives in Dublin this week, said President Donald Trump was right to call out the Irish trade deficit. Photo: Getty Images
Kevin Hassett, who will address business executives in Dublin this week, said President Donald Trump was right to call out the Irish trade deficit. Photo: Getty Images

And Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), told RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland today that Mr Trump is “very eager” to visit Ireland.

“I know the President and General Kelly are very eager to come to Ireland. I think we view Ireland as one of our closest and dearest allies, and if it doesn’t work out this time I’m sure something will work out soon,” Mr Hassett said.

“The thing I can say is that it’s election season in the US and the visit - which I’m not convinced it absolutely won't happen yet, I checked into it last night - the visit was scheduled for right after the elections and there are a bunch of things that might have to happen that involve foreign trips for negotiating reasons and so on that are all budding up against how much he can spend coming to Ireland and Paris.

“I think it’s something of a work in progress and even if that trip doesn’t work out I’m highly confident that everybody in the White House is quite motivated to come visit Ireland.”

When asked about the controversial anonymous op-ed in the New York Times last week, Mr Hassett, who will address the US Embassy-sponsored US-Ireland business summit this week, denied rumours that staff are “obsessed” with finding out who wrote it.

“I show up every day, I go to work, I’m surrounded by people that I really love to work with and that have my back. Were pretty well organised, we know what’s going on,” he said.

“I can also say the humour is quite good and the notion we’re obsessed with who’s the anonymous leak is just incorrect, people show up to do their jobs.”

He added that John F. Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, made a joke about it at a recent meeting, saying: “If there’s anyone here that doesn’t like working here, the exits are well marked.”

The Taoiseach’s Office has said they were informed that US President Donald Trump was postponing his visit to Ireland by the Irish Ambassador to the US Dan Mulhall.

In a statement tonight, the Taoiseach’s spokesperson said the Government “note” White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders suggestion that Trump administration are still “finalising” whether the President will travel to Ireland or not.

“Our Statement reflects what the Irish Ambassador to the US was informed by US authorities,” the Taoiseach’s spokesperson said.

“We note the statement from Sarah Sanders. If there are further developments we will let you know,” he added.

The US President had been due here on 12 November, something which Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted earlier this month wasn't expected.

Speaking on The Marty Squad on RTE Radio One on 2 September, the Taoiseach explained: "It came a little bit out of the blue.

"There is an open invitation to the US President to visit Ireland at any time, I think they've all visited since Reagan, if not before and obviously there's an open invitation for me, or any future Taoiseach, to attend Washington in March.

"We hadn't known until just a couple of days ago that he was going to take the opportunity of his visit to Paris for the Armistice commemorations, commemorating a hundred years of the end of the First World War, to visit Dublin, and also he's going to go to Doonbeg too.

"We've got to work out on a programme and all the rest of it but I think any programme we will have will have to respect the fact that we will inaugurating our own President on the 11th of November.

"And also will have to make sure that we have enough time and space to commemorate the Armistice because bear in mind hundreds of thousands of Irish people, including a lot of people from this city, fought in the first world war. We need to make sure that's appropriate and fits around that as well."

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