The venue for any possible meeting between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the US President Donald Trump was the glaring piece of information contained in the announcement on Wednesday that the US President would most likely be visiting Ireland in June.
Since that announcement from the “Irish side” there has not been a whisper of the visit from the American side. According to reports on Wednesday evening and throughout Thursday the visit was on, and the President would be meeting the Taoiseach in Dromoland Castle, which is about 50kms away from Mr. Trump’s golf resort in Doonbeg, West Clare.
I have to declare an interest here – No.1 my home in Ireland is in Ennis which is just down the road from Dromoland Castle and about 40 minutes from the Trump property in Doonbeg. However, I must also declare that under previous owners I was employed at the golf course for over four years back in the naughties. This was well before any Trump involvement. Ordinarily I would be pleased that wherever the meeting happened in the county it would bring attention to County Clare which is always a good thing. However, having worked in the Doonbeg resort I am very much aware of the value of the property there to the local and surrounding community. As a result I would favour a meeting in West Clare.
Anybody who knows anything about West Clare, like so many coastal areas in Ireland, but particularly along the West Coast will be familiar with the need for employment, investment in these areas and how difficult it is to attract and keep such investment. Doonbeg has managed to do this and it was not an easy path to make it happen. It did happen and as a result the area has bucked the trend along the west Coast – It has increased its community numbers, it has a major sustainable employer in the area, its visitor numbers have grown such that has allowed investment in local businesses that were under threat 20 years ago and generally the place is buzzing. Other aspects of life in the area have changed for the better in the past 15 years and this benefit is felt far and wide in County Clare and in some cases beyond.
This venue for the visit has caused a little speed wobble it would appear and with no word coming from Washington, speculation on Friday and early Saturday suggest that the President might just go to his property in Scotland.
I argue that there is a difference between the man Donald Trump and the President Donald Trump. As I mentioned, if it was not for the understanding I have of the importance of the golf resort in Doonbeg I might not be as interested in whether the visit went ahead or not. However, I do understand and it is difficult to hear commentators who are based in urban settings far from the wilds of West Clare pointing out why it would be difficult to hold such a meeting in a rural area where security might be an issue. It was never an issue in the past when a former US President visited with the huge security that goes with any former president. I was present for that so I know. I was also present for a visit of a former Vice President of the US and others who needed the same minding.
Is it possible that Mr. Varadkar doesn’t want to be seen in West Clare at the golf resort that was linked to him when he was Minister for Tourism? Maybe the broadband back there is not as good as it should be for keeping in contact and maybe there is a raft of other reasons why the meeting should not be held in Doonbeg.
If Mr. Trump did not own the golf resort in Doonbeg I wouldn’t care whether he ever set foot on Irish soil as there is so much of his presidency that I disagree with. However, Mr. Trump is a major employer in a much needed area of this country and that should be recognised. Afterall, when one hears about the Minister for Finance meeting a bank in recent months to re-assure them of the Government’s support following a high profile news item involving that bank in the latter part of 2018 one must wonder what is happening. That meeting was held in Dublin.
Despite the question mark still hanging over the visit to Ireland by President Trump it appears that the secret service have been back in Doonbeg and have been mapping the various routes in preparation for his visit. The security checkpoint at the entrance to Shannon Airport has once again been manned by members of the Garda Siochána in advance of the visit and there are in the region of 1,000 members of the force and the defence forces on standby.
In all that is going on in the world and in particularly in Ireland one would imagine that this is very much a storm in a teacup. However, let’s see how things play out in the coming days or weeks.