Pence meets Varadkar amid controversy over Doonbeg stay

Trump suggested Pence stay at his property but it was not ‘request’ or ‘command’

US vice-president Mike Pence has arrived in Dublin for the second leg of his visit to Ireland, amidst controversy about his decision to stay in President Trump's Doonbeg golf course during his visit.

Mr Pence was greeted by President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina at Áras an Uachtaráin on Tuesday morning where Mr Pence and his wife Karen signed the visitors' book, before a meeting in the State Drawing Room.

The US vice-president greeted the press before signing the guest book. He wrote: “In the memory of a great Irishman, Richard Michael Cawley (Mr

Pence’s maternal grandfather) and on behalf of the United States of America — we are delighted to be back in Ireland.”

Mr Pence and Mr Higgins were expected to discuss multilateral co-operation to address climate action, Brexit and its impact on Ireland as well as human rights and equality issues.

Mr Pence and his wife Karen were greeted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Matthew Barrett at the front door to Farmleigh, the Irish state guest house in Phoenix Park in Dublin, and exchanged pleasantries.

Speaking to reporters travelling with Mr Pence about the decision to stay in Mr Trump's property, the vice-president's chief of staff Marc Short said that the Trump hotel was a facility that "could accommodate the team," despite having to travel between Shannon and Dublin for the official elements of the trip which comprises meetings with the President, Taoiseach and US ambassador in Dublin.

He said that Mr Trump had suggested that Mr Pence stay at the hotel, but he said it wasn't a "request" or a "command." "It was a suggestion."

He said that the decision to stay in Doonbeg had followed normal protocol and had gone through the State Department for sign off an approval.

“If you’re going to stay in the Doonbeg area with a footprint of our size, that is the one facility that can accommodate that,” Mr Short said.

Trump’s business interests

Asked if lower cost options had been considered, he replied: “We always explore lower cost options.”

Mr Trump’s business interests have been a source of controversy since his election as president, with critics arguing that he could be in breach of the emoluments clause of the US constitution which prohibits US presidents from accepting any “present, emolument, office or title” from a foreign state or king while in office.

Several cases have been taken in the United States against the president, focusing in particular on the decision by foreign governments to stay in Mr Trump's Washington hotel, located close to the White House, when on official business.

The potential conflicts of interest surrounding the US president surfaced in recent weeks after Mr Trump suggested that his resort in Miami could be used as the location for next year's G7 summit.

While the US is covering the accommodation and travel expenses for the vice-president’s visit, there will be logistical and security costs from the Irish end.

It is estimated that the visit of President Trump in June cost millions of euro in garda security.

Mr Pence is due to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the early afternoon in Farmleigh before attending a gathering at the US ambassador’s residence nearby in the Phoenix Park with business leaders. He will return to Shannon and Doonbeg later on Tuesday. – Additional reporting from PA

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent