People have a right to protest over Donald Trump's visit to Clare but the US president should be welcomed to support US-Ireland relations, the most senior politician from the county has said.
Pat Breen, the Fine Gael Minister of State for Trade, who represents Clare, said he accepted that many people opposed Mr Trump's policies but believed maintaining strong ties between the countries was "extremely important" given how reliant the State was on investment and employment by US companies.
This is not about president Trump; this is about Irish-American relations
"I think Mr Trump, despite some of his policies, should be given a welcome by the Irish people. This is the office of the US president, the highest office in the land, and there are strong ties between Ireland and the US," Mr Breen told The Irish Times while on a trade mission to Canada and the US.
The White House has said Mr Trump will travel to Co Clare on June 5th at the invitation of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and the two leaders will meet at Shannon Airport that day.
“We live in a democracy and protests are part of modern democracies and people have a right to protest once they are peaceful and organised in conjunction with the gardaí,” Mr Breen said.
“When someone like president Trump comes, protests are always going to be on the cards because of some of the controversial policies he has imposed, but this is not about president Trump; this is about Irish-American relations.”
Mr Breen said close ties with the US administration were important given that there were “a lot of trade wars and potential trade wars looming” as a result of the Trump administration’s trade policies.
“That could have an adverse effect on Ireland; these are the times when you have to have strong relationships with your allies.”
Ring of steel
The Ennis politician said he expected a heavy security presence around Mr Trump in Co Clare and a "ring of steel" around the president's Doonbeg golf resort, where he is expected to stay during his visit.
On the possibility of playing golf with Mr Trump at Doonbeg, Mr Breen said it was a matter for protocol to determine who accompanied Mr Trump to the resort and whether it would be a private visit.
A spokesman for Shannon Airport, which has welcomed every US president since John F Kennedy, said Mr Trump's arrival would be an opportunity to showcase the midwest and west coast.
Gardaí are not expecting a security operation of the scale deployed for the visit of George W Bush to Shannon and nearby Dromoland Castle in 2004. Some 3,500 gardaí, a third of the force, were deployed from all over the country to protect Mr Bush at a cost of more than €4 million in overtime payments for the 18-hour visit.
A Garda source said the contained nature of Mr Trump’s visit to Shannon and Doonbeg meant the same security detail provided for Barack Obama’s 2011 visit to Dublin and Moneygall, Co Offaly, would not be needed for this visit.
The scale of Mr Trump’s security protection would also depend on whether he decided to fly by helicopter from Shannon to Doonbeg or travel by motorcade along the 66km route, which the source said would require a strong Garda presence. A security presence on the sea off the coast at Doonbeg is also likely to be required.