Miriam Lord: Self-confessed germaphobe Trump avoided the crowded bars

Doonbeg villagers were hurt over some things said in the media over past few days

Hearts sank at Doonbeg National School when it emerged that children from Clohanes National School  had met the president.  Photograph:   PA Wire

Hearts sank at Doonbeg National School when it emerged that children from Clohanes National School had met the president. Photograph: PA Wire

 

Trump Baby didn’t manage a trip to Doonbeg, but the big orange blimp was with us in spirit throughout Donald’s visit to his Irish outpost.

In the village, rumours of surprise appearances floated in the air, followed by slow deflations of high hopes as the Trumps never left their cordon of comfort.

Speculation about a mini-walkabout ran riot all day Thursday, died down when Trump went to dinner at the golf course in the evening and then rocketed up again when word went round that White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was above in Comerfords pub with senior aides and attendant flunkies.

Journalists poured from out of the pubs, embarking on a midnight mercy dash along Main Street in search of a few gobbets of news to justify their mounting expenses bills.

The same Ms Huckabee Sanders was indeed in Comerfords, ensconced in a corner with a large contingent of colleagues, enjoying a good belt of traditional Irish music from a group of local players. It’s a mystery why anyone would want to ask her anything – going by her White House press briefing performances – but she was the biggest name on offer.

But then, so too was Sean Spicer, once upon a time. This was a comforting thought as we watched the boys and girls devoted to Making America Great Again (MAGA) enjoying some downtime.

The bar was heaving. Tommy Comerford and his sisters, Ita and Breda, were pulling pints, with no special treatment for the visitors who had to stand their ground at the counter like everyone else. “We’re all in our 70s to tell you the truth, though they mightn’t like me saying that!” Tommy said.

Tommy told us on Friday there had been hazy indications filtering through that the president himself might call in.

They said he was extremely tired from his visit and that he had a tough schedule between Britain and going to the D-Day commemorations

In reality, the idea of self-confessed germaphobe Trump striding into the whiffy clamminess of a crowded lounge bar with a low ceiling on a summer’s night in west Clare is too outrageous to contemplate.

“We had a lot of aides of his in the pub last night and they said he was extremely tired from his visit and that he had a tough schedule between Britain and going to the D-Day” commemorations, said the publican, who is part of a strong local community which has worked very hard down through the decades to keep Doonbeg on the tourist map.

His brother, George Comerford, was in the group, playing the banjo when the Yanks called.

Tommy’s daughter, Rebecca, a music graduate, sang a hauntingly beautiful version of Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair.

Even the loudest of the MAGA boys hushed up as local voices quietly merged in on the chorus.

A small space was cleared for dancing at the back. Huckabee Sanders didn’t get up, although she told reporters as she was leaving that she had a wonderful night and it was nice to reconnect with her Irish heritage.

Earlier, photographs appeared on social media of Trump having his dinner, with his press secretary on one side getting in a bit of soakage before hitting Comerfords, and his wife, Melania, on the other, sporting a large, very standoffish pair of sunglasses.

Maybe Melania had been attacked by the midgets

Maybe she had been attacked by the “midgets”. This is how many people in Ireland, including Doonbeg, pronounce the word for those annoying insect biters otherwise known as “midges”.

The midgets were out in force on Thursday night.

Friday dawned with fresh hope after Donald’s non-appearance. People had it on good authority that Melania was to visit a local school while her husband was playing golf. (This would be his second outing; he fitted in a sneaky round the previous night after arriving back from Normandy.)

The Secret Service had been around the four local schools giving them the once over. The smart money was on Doonbeg National School behind the church on the road down to the sea.

Principal Neil Crowley was wearing a gleaming white shirt, which looked promising. The press pack, along with a large contingent of gardaí, descended on the school. The children were very, very excited, said Neil.

Not half as excited as the hacks.

The children came out for their schoolyard break. The children went back in. The camera crews filmed them running around. The minutes ran by. The camera crews filmed each other.

A lovely new house was nearing completion close by. “They work in the hotel,” we were told.

Before the Trump resort got going, the school had about 25 pupils. Now, there are 56 on the roll and a second teacher. Principal Crowley is in no doubt that this is down to the jobs available for parents at the resort.

Hearts sank when it emerged that children from Clohanes National School (within the cordon) had met the president and all hope vanished when it was reported that Melania went to the hotel spa instead. Probably to get over the midget bites.

Neil Crowley said he wasn’t disappointed. “Sure there’ll always be another trip,” he cheerfully remarked to the broken, weeping journalists.

But up at the course, children who had gathered at the fence with their teacher to see the president were delighted when they were summoned in to meet him.

They sang “My Lovely Rose of Clare” for the golfers and had a nice chat with Trump.

Afterwards, they came down to the village to meet the media. Were his hands big? Is he any good at golf? What did he say? Sing the song again for the microphones. Sing it! Sing it!

It got slightly hysterical but the children, thrilled to meet a real live American president, were the epitome of calm and good grace.

The sun came out too. It was a glorious day. Everyone was in good form, even if some of the things said about the villagers on radio and social media over the past few days hurt a lot of them.

Rita McInerney, who runs the cafe and is a Fianna Fáil candidate in the next election, was still getting praise for standing up to Prof John O’Brennan of Maynooth University during a radio discussion on the visit on Thursday.

Calling the club elitist was wrong. He isn’t up there of an evening to see the local farmers and the van drivers and fishermen and whatever sitting at the bar having the craic

“At one point he called the scenes when the Trump brothers visited ‘grotesque’. How dare he say that; I wasn’t going to let him away with it,” she said.

“And calling the club elitist was wrong. He isn’t up there of an evening to see the local farmers and the van drivers and fishermen and whatever sitting at the bar having the craic. They are club members too, from the very beginning when there was no Donald Trump.”

Tommy Comerford is sad about much of the reaction to his village’s reaction to the visit. He looks up along Main Street: “That’s our life blood here; you can see we’re totally dependent on tourism. I would say to the media: look at it from our side, you know, give us just some understanding of why we support the hotel and golf course.”

He tactfully refers to “issues” concerning Trump the politician. They know about them in the village too and privately talk about them.

Then he opens his wallet and takes out a small, neatly folded newspaper cutting. It was written over five years ago, before Trump was elected president but after he bought the golf course.

“It was written on the back page of the Independent. This man said he hoped Doonbeg would be washed out into the sea. I thought that was very hurtful. Imagine somebody wrote that.

“If Doonbeg closed down, this place would die.”