President Donald Trump will this week become the seventh serving American president to make landfall in Ireland.
Suffice it to say, this visit promises to be a standout, not least given the fact that the president is not visiting some ancestral pile, but rather a rather splendid property that he currently owns.
The residents of Doonbeg, County Clare, are certain to give the president and first lady a warm welcome. After all, the Doonbeg golf complex, part of the Trump property empire, is the primary employer in the area.
Outside Doonbeg, however, the welcome is expected to be more tepid.
For one thing, there will be no U.S. ambassador on hand when the Trumps first touch down at Shannon Airport. The ambassador designate, Edward Crawford, is still awaiting final Senate confirmation back in Washington and the ambassadorial residence in Dublin’s Phoenix Park remains empty.
The president will not be visiting Dublin where a protest is planned. He will be meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport, the Irish government having steered around the protocol issue that would have arisen if the meeting had been set for the president’s own private property.
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Trump and Varadkar know each other having met twice before so they should be able to deal with their clear differences of perspective on a variety of issues.
Trump’s visit then will be very much its own in terms of style and substance. His roots are not in Ireland as was the case with Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, and to a lesser degree Presidents Nixon, Clinton and Obama, whose Irish ancestry line was the most tenuous of the three, but mightily celebrated anyway back in 2011.
President Nixon, who visited in 1970, had Irish Quaker roots in County Clare and his wife Pat could draw a line back to Mayo. It was a private visit but, given the times that were in it, there were protests.
President Clinton could point to Fermanagh, and while President George W Bush couldn’t point to much of anywhere on the island he did make his mark when he stayed at Dromoland Castle in County Clare in 2004 for the EU-U.S. summit. He was caught on TV standing in the bedroom window in his under vest. Oh well!
Dromoland was reportedly initially favored by the Irish government for the Varadkar/Trump summit and Shannon seems to have been a compromise.
The fact that the Trumps are confining themselves to County Clare makes it easier from a security standpoint, particularly given the planned protests outside the Banner County and especially in Dublin.
President Reagan visited Dublin as well as County Tipperary in 1984 and the Irish capital was the scene of a major demonstration that was halted only yards from Leinster House where the president delivered a speech.
President Clinton, of course, was greeted by adoring crowds in both the North and Republic in 1995 given his efforts on behalf of peace in Northern Ireland, and he would return to Ireland for yet more accolades.
This is a return visit for Donald Trump but last time around, in 2014, he was merely Mr. Donald Trump – if Donald Trump could ever be considered a mere merely.
Either way, this is a big week in Ireland. The visit of an American president is always a big deal, regardless of feelings towards the man.
Hopefully all will go smoothly, for greeters and protestors alike.