Sunday 16 June 2019

White House is 'all over the place' as Trump's visit to Ireland descends into chaos

Mixed messages: Donald Trump was due to visit in November. Photo: REUTERS
Mixed messages: Donald Trump was due to visit in November. Photo: REUTERS

Kevin Doyle, Philip Ryan and Cormac McQuinn

US President Donald Trump's visit to Ireland descended into chaos yesterday as senior government officials on opposite sides of the Atlantic clashed.

Mr Trump was scheduled to arrive in Ireland in the second week of November for a controversial two-day visit.

However, yesterday afternoon this newspaper's sister title exclusively revealed the US president had cancelled his visit.

At the time, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's spokesperson was unable to confirm that Mr Trump was no longer coming.

Around an hour later, the spokesman was eventually able to confirm that his planned visit had been postponed.

However, shortly after the Government said the trip was off, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders suggested the visit may still go ahead.

"The president will travel to Paris in November as previously announced. We are still finalising whether Ireland will be a stop on that trip. As details are confirmed we will let you know," Ms Sanders said.

Last night, the Taoiseach's spokesperson said the Government's statement "reflects" what they were told by Irish Ambassador to the US Dan Mulhall who was informed by "US authorities" the trip was being postponed. "We note the statement from Sarah Sanders. If there are further developments we will let you know," he added.

The White House did not respond to requests for clarity on Ms Sander's comments.

But a senior Government source in Dublin said they were confident Mr Trump would not be visiting Ireland in November as planned.

The source said the White House was "all over the place" on its preparation for Mr Trump's visit to Europe.

"They don't seem to know what each other is doing or saying over there," the source added.

Mr Trump was due to stopover in Ireland on his way home from Armistice Day commemorations in France on November 11.

The visit included the president spending one day in Dublin before travelling to Doonbeg, Co Clare, where he owns a hotel and golf course.

The Government had begun preparations for the visit after it was announced by the White House two weeks ago.

Mr Varadkar admitted at the time the president's decision to come to Ireland "came a little bit out of the blue".

The decision to welcome Mr Trump to Ireland was met with widespread criticism across the political spectrum.

Preparations for street protests over the visit were already under way when it emerged Mr Trump has cancelled his trip.

Two Independent Alliance Government ministers - Finian McGrath and John Halligan - had planned to take part in the protests.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the expected cancellation of Mr Trump's visit reflected a relationship between the two countries that was "not functioning".

Mr Martin said the whole episode had been "a very unedifying experience".

He pointed to the lack of a US ambassador to Ireland for two years when he said: "I think it's time to try and get this relationship sorted."

He said the way Mr Trump's visit and expected cancellation played out had been "extraordinary", adding the Government "hadn't been alerted that the visit was on in the first instance".

"It was a bolt out of the blue. Then suddenly, in a similar manner it emerged that the visit is off," he added.

Mr Martin said it showed the need for some indication of when a US ambassador would be appointed as, in the past, they had been a "key conduit" with American presidents.

Irish Independent

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