THE biggest security operation seen in the Banner County for at least 15 years will begin on June 5, when US President Donald Trump touches down at Shannon Airport.
At the moment, details of Mr Trump’s visit are relatively sketchy but it is understood he will meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport on June 5, spend the night at Trump International in Doonbeg, fly to France for D Day Commemorations on June 6, return to Doonbeg that evening and depart from Shannon Airport on June 7.
Garda sources confirmed to The Clare Champion on Wednesday that it will be the most significant undertaking in Clare since George W Bush’s visit in June of 2004. However, on that occasion, they had months of notice, whereas the Trump visit was confirmed just a fortnight before his arrival.
It is understood that extra gardaí from other parts of the country will have to be brought in to assist during the visit.
The perimeter fence at Shannon has been breached several times in recent years by protestors
and, presumably, a huge effort will be required to make sure there are no security issues during the visit.
There was a very noticeable garda presence at Trump International in Doonbeg this week, with preparations underway for the president’s arrival. In recent days, members of the gardaí have also been visiting homes in the Doonbeg area, speaking to residents and gathering information.
On Wednesday, cars were being stopped and drivers spoken to at the security hatch on the entrance road to Shannon Airport, as security was being visibly ramped up.
President Trump’s son, Eric, visited Doonbeg last weekend with a party of about 30 people and there was a sizeable police presence in the area as a result.
While Trump has been a hate figure for many since even before his election, he is sure to be warmly welcomed in Doonbeg, where Trump International provides around 300 jobs each summer.
“The simple fact is Mr Trump is the President of the United States, elected democratically by the people of America. Why in the name of God are people coming down from Dublin telling us that we can’t give him a proper reception when he comes? It’s not democratic, these people that are saying we have no right to welcome the President of America down to West Clare, to Doonbeg, we’re going to stand up and fight for that, that’s a democratic right,” local man Tommy Comerford told The Clare Champion.
Local businessperson Caroline Kennedy said few locals will be protesting, given his contribution to a part of Clare where employment is scarce. “I don’t think anyone in West Clare will have an objection to him. If people do get in to protest, they won’t be from West Clare. I think most people are very happy.”
Ed Horgan of peace group Shannonwatch, which opposes the use of the Clare airport by the American military, said there will certainly be protests with Shannon as the focal point. “The main focus will probably be at the airport. There probably will be some other protests, possibly at Doonbeg.”
People should not become accepting of the military use of the airport, Mr Horgan feels. “The fact that it has been going on so long doesn’t make it right.Up to one million children have died in the Middle East since the first Gulf War in 1991,” he continued.
In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Shannon Airport said the visit is significant and very welcome. “Shannon has long since had a special relationship with the US, with every US president having been welcomed at Shannon Airport since John F Kennedy became the first serving president to visit Ireland in 1963. This visit will put Ireland at the centre of world media attention and, as a result, it will create an opportunity to showcase the attractiveness of the West of Ireland, the Wild Atlantic Way and the strong US FDI located at Shannon.
“This visit, and the fact that our Taoiseach will meet with President Trump at Shannon, reflects again Shannon Airport’s place in Irish-US relations. We’ve had that since Shannon became the first European gateway airport all those years ago and today have it through direct services to the US that support the huge tourism industry and the US multinational presence in this region.”