Government downplays disagreement over Trump visit

Tánaiste says there was ‘certainly no row over Doonbeg versus other locations’

The Government has sought to downplay concerns about disagreements between Washington and Dublin about a possible visit by the US president to Ireland, following US media reports over the weekend.

A disagreement between US and Irish officials over the venue for a proposed meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Donald Trump, and protocol issues around the visit, has delayed a decision on whether the US president will visit Ireland next month.

In the latest update to media, members of the US press corps have been informed of a trip to Britain and Normandy but not to Ireland. However, sources said this could change and a visit to Ireland could be added.

Speaking on RTÉ, Tánaiste Simon Coveney said that there was "certainly no row over Doonbeg versus other locations" following US media reports of a "stand-off" over the matter.


He said that a lot of what was appearing in the media was “total exaggeration” and in some parts not true.

The reason why there had been a delay, he said, had to do with what parts of Mr Trump’s visit to a number of European destinations would be private and what parts “very public”.

‘No stand-off’

Asked how he felt about Mr Trump coming to Ireland, the Tánaiste said “the president of the United States should always be welcome in Ireland” and that it was a very significant office.

The Taoiseach has always been welcomed in Washington DC, irrespective of the person holding the office, Mr Coveney said.

Several media outlets, including the Washington Post, CNN and the New York Post have reported on the issue in recent days, highlighting the disagreement between US and Irish officials about the venue for a possible meeting between Mr Varadkar and Mr Trump.

A CNN article quoting an Irish Government source on Saturday said there was a “stand-off” over the venue, which threatens to derail the visit.

The article quotes the source as saying: “The Irish government feel that protocol dictates that any event they host for President Trump should be at a venue of their choosing and certainly not at an hotel owned by Trump.”

It also reports the Taoiseach’s comments this week when asked about potential protests. Mr Varadkar said that, in a democracy, protest “is allowed and is welcome”.

In response to the CNN article, a spokeswoman for the Irish embassy said: “Contrary to what has been reported, there is no stand-off about the venue for a meeting between President Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. There has been some preliminary discussions on venues.

“Having met him twice in the White House, the Taoiseach would welcome an opportunity to meet President Trump should he decide to visit Ireland while he is in Europe next month.”

The unique nature of a potential visit – a US president visiting his own private property in Ireland – has thrown up complex issues around protocol, in particular if the visit constitutes a private or official visit.

‘A special place’

The US president said in March that he planned to visit Ireland this year, mentioning in particular his golf course in Doonbeg.

“I will be coming at some point this year,” he said alongside Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office in March during the St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

“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.”

Mr Trump, who has not visited Doonbeg golf club since his election as US president, had been scheduled to travel to Ireland last November after the armistice centenary commemorations but the trip was postponed.

Meanwhile, security was tight in Co Clare over the weekend for the visit of his son, Eric Trump, to the region.

The 35-year-old executive vice-president of the Trump Organization arrived in Shannon on Saturday, accompanied by 30 business people from the US on the final leg of a golf trip which included the two Trump golf resorts in Scotland.

The Trump Organization’s luxury Boeing 757-200 jet arrived in Shannon on Saturday morning before Mr Trump and his party were whisked the 60km to the family’s hotel and golf resort in Doonbeg.