Belfast Telegraph

Protocol ‘rules out Obama crossing border during Ireland trip’

By Shane Hickey, Keven Keane and Colm Kelpie

A trip by US President Barack Obama to Northern Ireland looks increasingly unlikely during his visit to the Republic in May because of diplomatic constraints.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday indicated that a journey over the border would be against protocol rules.

It is widely expected that the large US delegation will arrive in the Republic at the end of May, just before Mr Obama travels to London for an official visit there.

Mr Obama announced on St Patrick's Day his wish to return to his roots in Moneygall, Co Offaly.

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness raised the possibility of a visit to Northern Ireland with Mr Kenny.

However, Mr Kenny said that under diplomatic rules the President can’t cross the border without first setting foot in London.

“The problem actually is that the President, under existing protocol, is not allowed to go to Northern Ireland without first having to go to Britain,” he said.

“So if President Obama were to decide to go close to the border, actually from a protocol perspective he's expected to go to London before he would go to Northern Ireland.”

Although no official date has been announced, Mr Obama is expected to be in Ireland from Sunday, May 22 to Tuesday, May 24. He is then expected to travel to Britain afterwards.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office in London confirmed that for state visits, protocol dictates that a foreign leader must travel to London first, before visiting other areas of the UK.

Meanwhile, the Queen will be in the Republic from Tuesday, May 17 to Friday, May 20.

Among the locations that she may visit on her trip to Ireland is Coolmore Stud in Co Tipperary.

A spokesman for Coolmore said that while no formal arrangement has been made yet, the stud would welcome a visit by the Queen.

In the Dail, Gerry Adams asked if Mr Obama could stop off in his Louth constituency before travelling to Belfast. Mr Kenny said the issue was out of his hands.

There is also speculation in the US that Mr Obama's visit will amount to just five hours.

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