Trump visit could be as early as June, says Varadkar
US president has previously said he intends to come to Ireland ‘at some point this year’
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US president Donald Trump in the White House on March 14th. Photograph: Department of the Taoiseach/Government Press Office
US president Donald Trump could visit Ireland as early as this June, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Friday in Chicago.
He said that the US president was expected to travel to Europe for the D-Day anniversary in June and to Britain for the Nato summit in December.
“It’s possible that he’ll make the trip to Ireland before or after one of those but it’s still early days yet,” he said.
Mr Trump said on Thursday, ahead of a bilateral meeting with Mr Varadkar in the Oval Office, that he would visit Ireland this year.
“I will be coming at some point this year. I missed it last year, and I would have loved to have been there.
“It’s a special place and I have a very warm spot for Doonbeg I will tell you that. It is just a great place,” he said.
Speaking shortly after arriving in Chicago for the second stage of his St Patrick’s Day visit, Mr Varadkar also said he believes that the DUP does not want Britain to leave the European Union without a deal.
Mr Varadkar said he spoke with party leader Arlene Foster on Thursday.
“I certainly have the sense that the DUP would like the UK to leave the European Union with a deal, that they don’t want no deal,” he said.
“At the moment they’re in discussions with the British government about how they might approach the next vote but they’re discussions that I’m not party to.”
Mr Varadkar was speaking as the DUP embarked on a weekend of crunch talks with the Conservatives ahead of an EU summit next week.
With UK prime minister Theresa May’s government seeking to secure support in the House of Commons for her negotiated Brexit deal ahead of a further vote next week, the DUP is seen as a key player in securing sufficient parliamentary support.
Earlier in New York, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan called on the DUP to show “leadership” at this time.
“It’s important that the DUP shows clear leadership in Northern Ireland which has been sadly lacking over the past number of years,” he said.
“It’s over two years since the people voted, and there are no institutions functioning in Northern Ireland. The parties have the primary responsibility here – of course the two governments have a role too – but the two parties have responsibility when it comes to this matter.”
Noting that he had worked constructively with the DUP in the context of the Stormont and First Step Agreement, Mr Flanagan said that the DUP must “engage with others in order that solutions can be found,” adding that “solutions can be found”.
Mr Flanagan was speaking at the Understanding Brexit conference organised by Irish Central, former Ireland funds director Kieran McLoughlin and business and community stakeholders in the United States which explored the role Irish-America can play in the Brexit process.
He said that the impact of Brexit could have an extremely negative effect on Northern Ireland.
“Independent reports on Brexit show that while there will be downsides for everybody, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, or of a so-called hard Brexit, the Northern Ireland economy will suffer greatly,” he said.
Mr Flanagan told the conference at the Harvard Club in New York that the Irish government believes “that the best way forward now is still to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement and to use the time and space provided by the transition period to begin exploring alternative arrangements.”
Border poll support
He also said that the government does not believe that sufficient support exists for a border poll that would result in constitutional change.
“Such a poll would only increase uncertainty and division at an already sensitive and difficult time,” he said.
“Our ambition throughout the Brexit negotiations has been to ensure that the Good Friday Agreement can continue to operate in all its parts after the UK leaves the European Union, and that the gains and benefits of peace for people North and South, and East and West, can be protected.
“It is as practical as that and that is where our focus needs to remain.”
Senator George Mitchell, the main architect of the Good Friday Agreement, and congressman Richard Neal also addressed the conference.
Recalling the leadership that political and community figures had shown during the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Mitchell urged both Britain and the European Union to show leadership in the coming days weeks.
“A hard Brexit is in no one’s interest especially in respect to the Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The EU and the British government have repeatedly promised there will not be a hard border . . . that promise should be kept,” he said, adding that political figures “should not lightly make important public promises and when they do they should honour their promises.”
He said that it was also in the European Union’s interest to agree a deal.
Noting that the EU has made special arrangements with several countries, he said that “if there is enough good faith and innovation on both sides it might be possible for them to agree to another special arrangement”.