Doonbeg welcomes ‘Pence the man, not the conservative’s policies’
US vice-president shares resort with wedding party, golfers and team-building conference
Even the secret service agents were taking photographs of the Atlantic waves rolling in on Doughmore beach next to Donald Trump’s golf resort at Doonbeg in west Clare.
One agent was so taken with Ireland’s Atlantic coast that she thought it a stunning backdrop for a portrait of her Belgian Malinois sniffer dog outside the restaurant in the resort’s golf clubhouse.
Others thought the Irish naval vessel, the LÉ William Butler Yeats – sent to Doughmore Bay to protect Trump’s deputy, US vice-president Mike Pence during his two-night visit – was worth a few snaps.
Even Joe Russell, managing director of Trump’s resort, thought that Pence’s visit was “quieter” than the juggernaut that steamed through here in June when Trump and his 600-strong entourage visited.
The number of US official staff in west Clare this week with Pence, or V-POTUS as he is officially known, and his wife, second lady Karen Pence, or SLOTUS, are about half that number.
Russell said it was “lovely” to have a return visit from the White House so soon after Trump’s, particularly because Pence’s mother’s grandmother came from the Doonbeg area.
Kieran Maloney, a distant cousin of Pence who works as a barman at Trump’s resort, served drinks to America’s second couple on Monday night in Trump’s Ocean View restaurant.
Pence’s visit, brought forward by four days, meant his party are sharing the resort for two nights with a team-building conference for staff from a multinational logistics company and a US wedding group.
One American guest, when disturbed for permission to have their room “swept” by the secret service, responded: “It would be an honour.” The party is said to be made up of the “right voters”.
A member of the corporate team-building party, from Norway, said she was unable to take a stroll on the beach because of the security restrictions.
“At least we are safe,” she said, generously, referring to the heavy security presence.
Tom Skea from New Jersey said he did not know Pence was at Doonbeg until his golfing party arrived but they were not put out by the metal detectors and checks.
“It’s Trump, you have to expect the unexpected,” he said, drinking a pint of Guinness as he surveyed the course.
He expressed surprise at the number of secret service agents at the resort and the cost to the American taxpayer.
“People don’t care,” said Skea, a Trump voter. “Trump has got so much money, it doesn’t matter.”
The reception for Pence around here has been more low key than the welcome rolled out for Trump in June.
Rita McInerney, a Fianna Fáil general election candidate who runs a cafe in Doonbeg, said, like for Trump, locals could welcome Pence the man and still be opposed to the conservative’s policies, particularly his opposition to same-sex marriage and rights for LGBT people.
“Doonbeg people are no fools. They have a certain level of pride in the fact that it is a relative of someone who came from Doonbeg who has achieved high office. The fact that you may or may not disagree with their policies is a separate issue,” said McInerney who disagrees with Pence’s LGBT views.
Down the road in Kilkee, 2019 Fine Gael local council contender Mike Taylor, the county’s first openly gay local election candidate, felt it was “regressive and regrettable” that Pence had been welcomed in Clare.
“It is sickening to me that somebody can hold such regressive, dangerous and ignorant views,” he said.
He took issue with the White House’s deputy press secretary tweeting on Tuesday morning that Pence could not be described as anti-gay because he was lunching with a gay Taoiseach and his partner in Dublin later in the day.
“Is that really the image we want to project across the world?” he said.
Taylor (21), a member of Young Fine Gael’s engagement, inclusion and diversity committee, was equally unhappy that Varadkar found himself in a “cheap photo op” with Pence that exposed the US vice-president’s “hypocrisy”.
“To see our Taoiseach willing to shake hands with that kind of person – in one sense, it shows what a diplomat and statesman Leo can be,” he said. “On the other hand, I think it shows what a fool he can be.”