Monday 21 October 2019

Kevin Doyle: Trump comes in peace - but it will be on his own terms

Céad míle fáilte: Donald Trump is welcomed to Shannon Airport in 2014 on his last trip to Ireland. Photo: Sean curtin
Céad míle fáilte: Donald Trump is welcomed to Shannon Airport in 2014 on his last trip to Ireland. Photo: Sean curtin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Under normal circumstances, the imminent arrival of a US president would be gold for the Government.

Lots of opportunities for PR shots, to make noble speeches about our storied history and to distract the country from any actual news.

But the off-the-cuff reaction of one minister to being told about Donald Trump's plans yesterday summed up where we're at: "Oh sh*t."

Perhaps more out of hope than anything, the Government was insisting last night that there is still no formal notification that Trump is actually coming - but evidence is easy to find.

His luxury hotel in Doonbeg, Co Clare, is not accepting bookings between May 31 and June 7. And there are no tee times available at the 18-hole championship course for Friday, June 7, either. Already the not-so-subtle Secret Service has sussed out the tiny village and is expected back in the coming days.

Speaking in Paris last night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said protocol dictates that the White House is the first to announce the president's travel plans.

"But if President Trump comes to Ireland he'll be treated with the respect and given the welcome his office deserves," he said.

There are different political opinions as to what type of céad míle fáilte that is. But despite his obvious ego, the billionaire is unlikely to be overly worried. By the time he and wife Melania get here on June 5 they will have been feted at Buckingham Palace and enjoyed all the pomp and ceremony that comes with a State visit.

They will do that against the backdrop of up to one million people protesting on the streets of London, and intense media coverage.

Doonbeg will seem like the most peaceful of hamlets and whatever protesters do gather will be kept well out of the president's sight.

Trump loves to be in control and that is possibly why he has decided to base himself at one of his own hotels rather than burden the housekeepers in Farmleigh.

Sources say the visit will be very much on the president's terms. He likes to be in charge.

When Barack Obama came in 2011 the country bought into the hype - and the State treated him like the human embodiment of a tourist trap.

His daughters were made to go to Glendalough, where they learned about midges.

And there was the famous trip to Moneygall to pull a pint in Ollie Hayes's bar.

Trump will be more interested in promoting his own hotel than the country.

He's likely to stay in the 2,800sq ft Ocean View Suite which has four bedrooms, a view of the Atlantic crashing onto Doughmore Strand and a flat-screen TV capable of getting Fox News.

It's understood he'll make a day trip from Shannon Airport to France for the D-Day Commemorations on June 6 before coming back for his round of golf. Mr Varadkar will visit him at some point but their get-together might actually happen in Dromoland Castle, 50km from Doonbeg.

Labour Party Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin is already talking about building a resistance to the visit and called on the State not to facilitate "the face of hate, racism and division".

But Mr Varadkar insisted people need to "rise above" the personality because the president of America "is always welcome".

Irish Independent

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