PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s visit to Clare began on Wednesday afternoon, as he arrived at Shannon Airport on Air Force One from the UK, held a meeting that lasted less than an hour with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, before travelling by helicopter to Doonbeg.
The US President was characteristially outspoken when he addressed the media at the airport, claiming that Brexit will “work out very well” and comparing the Irish border with the one between the US and Mexico.
He claimed that he had been unaware of President Michael D Higgins’ criticism of his record on environmental issues and, in fact, countered that “we have the cleanest air in the world in the United States and it’s gotten better since I’m President”.
President Trump is due to fly to France on Thursday, return to Doonbeg and spend the night there, play a game of golf on Friday morning before leaving Ireland again later in the day.
Security is currently very tight at both Shannon and Doonbeg, with some 1,500 uniformed gardaí and another 500 members attached to specialist units involved in a mammoth policing operation.
While there were protests outside the entrance to Shannon Airport on Wednesday evening, they were never anywhere close to President Trump.
There has been some cynicism about Mr Trump’s decision to base himself at his family’s property in Doonbeg but speaking to the media at Shannon, he insisted it is appropriate. “I thought this would be the best place. I love to come to Ireland and stay at Doonbeg.”
When Mr Trump and the First Lady stepped off of Air Force One, there was a sizeable Clare membership in the group that welcomed him from the plane, with Deputy Pat Breen, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council Michael Begley and Shannon Group Chair Rose Hynes among them.
Speaking about the business and social links between Ireland and the US, Mr Trump said, “The Prime Minister has done a fantastic job and we have become friends over the last period of time. There is a great relationship with Ireland, I think as good as it has ever been, maybe better. Tremendous trade, we do a lot of business together, a lot of tourism together, maybe most importantly Ireland is one of the leading countries in terms of moving to
and living in the United States. We have millions of Irish, I think I know most of them because they’re my friends”.