Ring of steel as Donald Trump pays historic visit to Shannon

Rebecca Laffan

Reporter:

Rebecca Laffan

Email:

rebecca.laffan@limerickleader.ie

THERE was a security ring of steel around Shannon Airport this Wednesday evening as the President of the United States, Donald Trump and an entourage of the world's media arrived for his official visit to the country.

Hand-in-hand with First Lady Melania Trump, dressed in a woolen, winter white-belted coat, the Republican president slowly walked down the steps of his Boeing 757, waving to the press fleet, State officials and those in attendance.

President Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar held brief bilateral discussions on the threat of Brexit shortly after his extravagant and historic Air Force One arrival at Shannon Airport this Wednesday evening.

It is the first time Donald Trump has visited Ireland as US president, and he is expected to stay in his family’s Doonbeg hotel resort until Friday when he returns to Washington.

The controversial president was greeted by Taoiseach Varadkar, Minister of State Pat Breen, Clare Mayor Michael Begley, and Shannon Group chairperson Rose Hynes.

After the quick meet-and-greet on the runway, Mr Varadkar was joined by the Trumps in a black Chevrolet SUV en route to a VIP suite to primarily discuss trade issues and the threat of Brexit.

And while the US president was welcomed with open arms on the runway, that was not the case outside the airport grounds where up to 30 groups protested against his visit to Clare. There were also pro-Trump supporters at the airport.

Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan was joined by fellow party members, including newly-elected councillor Conor Sheehan, in the large anti-Trump picket line.

Deputy O’Sullivan, who was present at the Peace Camp protests, said that she hoped the president notices the protests.

“I hope he realises that the protest is for him. He says he didn’t see them in London, but I hope he sees our one in Ireland,” Deputy O’Sullivan told the Limerick Leader. 

“I think all we can do is be very clear in why we’re protesting, we’re not protesting against the office of president, we’re very happy with the relationship between Ireland and the US but this is specifically about the kind of announcements President Trump has made as opposed to the office president.”

Many protests surround the issue of climate change, with hopes that the issue would be brought up between the Taoiseach and the US President.

However, the issue of climate change was not a hot topic on the two leaders’ itinerary.

The Limerick City TD added: “If you don’t take the opportunity to raise questions with the biggest polluting country who have the power to make an enormous difference in the world it’d be a shame.”

When asked if Trump elaborated on his view that Brexit would be good for Ireland, Taoiseach Varadkar said he did not but said they discussed the nature of the border, and he knew that it was a “sticking point” in negotiations. While the bilateral discussions were underway, the First Lady was treated to an exclusive, low-key cultural performance, which included Irish dancing at Shannon Airport.

The Trumps departed S on Wednesday evening, headingto Doonbeg on the Marine One helicopter. Approximately 2,000 gardai have been deployed to security operatives surrounding the US president’s special visit to Clare .Up to 150 members of the media were subject to a major security clearance at University of Limerick, between 9am and 1.30pm, before boarding five secure coaches to Shannon Airport.

Arriving just before 4pm, media assembled in two stands set up on the runway with high levels of gardai and US military presence.

Though blustery on the runway, reporters and media crew eagerly anticipated the arrival of President Trump, with his departure from Southampton airport confirmed at approximately 4pm.

Two US military choppers were positioned on the runway, with his staff making preparations for his prompt arrival by carrying out last-minute security checks and double-checking the height of the staircase Mr Trump would be descending.

Close to 4:40pm, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrived and waited to the side of the media stands for the arrival, prompted by the landing of Trump’s Boeing 757.

Trump’s convoy of black cars travelled across the runway to meet the President at the bottom of the stairway, and was parked in position before the plane came to a halt.

In the minutes before 5pm, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump came into view from the plane door, gave a short wave and descended the steps to the waiting Mr Varadkar.Concealed by Mr Trump’s car, many reporters struggled to catch the handshake as President Trump set foot on Irish ground, but the conversation was kept brief to under a minute before both headed into the airport for the press conference. See Page 14

Speaking at the press conference, Mr Trump said it was “an honour to be here” and “we love the Irish”. 

The newly appointed chief superintendent of the Clare Garda Division Michael Gubbins, a native of Kilmallock, briefed members of the media at Shannon Garda Station in relation to the visit of the president. 

Former St Munchin's student Michael Hanrahan also presented a painting of Doonbeg to the president during his visit. 

Meanwhile, a Limerick golf professional at Donald Trump’s Irish resort in Doonbeg says he won’t hold back on teasing the US President when they play on Friday, despite Trump’s changed status since his last Irish visit.

The last time Brian Shaw, who is head professional at Adare Manor, played with Trump, he was just a property tycoon and reality TV star.

“We all rib each other. There’s no holding back – bit of a dig here and there, harmless enough stuff,” Shaw said to the Irish Times.