Monday 19 August 2019

John Downing: 'After contemplating two walls and a border … we got where we needed to go - we think'

All smiles: US President Donald Trump during a bilateral meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport.. Picture: Getty
All smiles: US President Donald Trump during a bilateral meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport.. Picture: Getty
John Downing

John Downing

W is for Wednesday and w is also for wall. So, if it's Wednesday in Clare, boundary talks could well be about a wall in Mexico … or even a wall off Doonbeg.

Hopefully, never a wall between Dundalk and Derry.

But, when talk starts about "the Border" - it's really not a million miles away from talk about a wall. In a case of "spot the odd one out", however, you'd have to go for the one absolutely nobody wants: the Border.

Donald J Trump wants a wall on the US-Mexican border. And a wall to preserve his golf dunes at those Doonbeg links.

Ireland definitely does not want a return of the north-south border - and, we were eventually led to believe, that neither does "the Donald". Phew!

President Trump landed in Shannon about 10 minutes to five on Wednesday. But, lest we think we Irish are ever the only pebbles on the global beach, an early question concerned the USA's neighbours, Mexico, a place which has a wall in common with Doonbeg, just west of the Clare airport.

The global news machine ground on as the focus fell on US threats of a 5pc levy on Mexican imports, if there was not more urgent action on emigration, an issue which has been the notorious subject of a preventative US-Mexican wall.

US Vice President Mike Pence was due to lead an American delegation meeting with senior Mexican officials to address the latest flashpoint.

"I think they will stop it. I think they want to do something and make a deal. They sent their top people to try," the president told the US travelling press. There went "wall number one".

But this visit to Clare - and those golf links in Doonbeg - was, for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, going to be all about Brexit.

President Trump thinks of himself as a "Mr Brexit", and he had spent this previous 36 hours in Britain cheerleading for the UK-EU divorce, and praising "Leave" advocates like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, but mercifully avoiding praise for a no-deal Brexit.

So, he was promptly asked, how did the president think Ireland would fare under Brexit? "I think it will all work out very well, and also for you with your wall - your border", he said, happily moving on from the w-word, which surely gave the Taoiseach a rather sinking feeling.

"I mean, we have a border situation in the United States, and you have one over here," the US president added by way of lame explanation.

Mr Varadkar interrupted briefly to remind him: "The thing we want to avoid, of course, is a border ... or a wall," the Taoiseach offered ever so helpfully. So, it's not always wall on a Wednesday.

Still, the President did manage to remember that for Ireland the big Brexit thing was the border. But everything would be alright in the end.

"Hopefully that will work out. I think it will work out. There's a lot of good minds thinking about how to do it. It's going to be just fine," he said.

Then the US President and An Taoiseach headed for private talks in the lesser-used, by presidents at least, presidential suite.

Afterwards, the Taoiseach told reporters that the meeting was an opportunity to put the Irish view on Brexit. President Trump would have got "certain stories" about the issue in the previous two days in London.

Given that there are, give or take, 200 countries in the world, no US President could know everything about all of them. "I used the opportunity of this meeting to point out the issues from Ireland that arise from Brexit," Mr Varadkar said. The business end of the visit was over.

The US President was on his way over the 65 kilometres to his scenic fastness of Doonbeg, scene of another disputed wall.

Irish Independent

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