Belfast Telegraph

Nicola Anderson: Dinner in the golf club with a Diet Coke on a low-key day for Trump in Doonbeg

Donald and Melania Trump arrive back at Shannon last night
Donald and Melania Trump arrive back at Shannon last night
The Trump blimp rises in Dublin’s Parnell Square
Mick O’Dea and his horses reach a Garda checkpoint at the Trump resort in Doonbeg

By Nicola Anderson

The crash of glass bottles as a recycling truck stopped at every licensed premises in Doonbeg told the tale.

There had been one hell of a hoolie here the night before, a session on the Trump tab as the president's 'boys' Don Jnr and Eric hit the village.

They poured a pint in each of the five pubs. There was a lot of froth involved. And everyone got a round of drinks.

"Cocktails," promised Eric at first. He would have been doing well to get anyone to whip up cocktails at that hour, with every pub in the Clare village heaving.

The offer was quickly downgraded to a "drink on the house" for everyone.

On the brothers' rounds of the bars, the BBC put a question to Eric - was this trip a good use of US taxpayers' money?

"We're just trying to have a good time," he said, before ducking into Madigan's pub and refusing to answer any more questions.

Despite the sore heads, Doonbeg had hopes of more during this private visit - not beer necessarily, but more Trump.

Rumours had swirled around the village all day that the big man himself would be making an appearance, buoyed up by the runaway success of his sons.

But there were a few factors hampering this theory.

Trump, being a teetotaller, would be unlikely to want to pull pints in the bars.

But chiefly, he was already late coming back from the D-Day commemorations in France because he had given an impromptu interview to his favourite television channel, Fox News.

Then there was some business to attend to.

Shortly after 7pm he tweeted from Doonbeg that he had just signed a Disaster Aid Bill to "help Americans hit by recent catastrophic storms". "Puerto Rico should love President Trump. Without me, they would have been shut out!" he wrote.

Later, the White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney hosted a dinner at the Trump golf resort, with guests including Dan Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador to the United States; John Deasy, the Irish government's special envoy to the US; and Fianna Fail senator Mark Daly.

Shortly after 5pm, Marine One passed overhead carrying Donald and Melania back to Doonbeg from France.

Their route meant they would not have been able to spot the Trump Baby blimp flying in the sky over Dublin, borrowed from our neighbours in the UK.

And then they were back, safely cocooned in this corner of west Clare, where a defiantly 'Make America Great Again' mood prevailed.

A photograph of the dinner was tweeted by Stephen Kearon, a former government Fianna Fail adviser, which showed Mr Trump in relaxed mood, with the White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee on his right, while First Lady Melania was on his left.

The meal was held in the Club House restaurant, which is in the public rather than the private members' area of the resort and which has an informal vibe, with no tablecloth - and the US President appeared to have an almost empty plastic bottle of Diet Coke at his place.

This morning, Trump is set to play golf before returning home.

In Tommy Tubridy's bar, Vietnam veteran Thomas Leyne was anxious to catch a glimpse of his hero. From Massachusetts in the States, he owns a holiday home here and had already been to Ireland three weeks ago.

But when he found out that Trump would be visiting, his family insisted that he go along, so he booked a flight last Sunday to come again. "I'm a big fan," he declared.

Asked what he would say to the US president if he met him, he said: "I enjoy and admire you for everything you are doing. I approve 100% of everything he does.

"I know he gets a hard time, but he's done more in two years than the last 12 years of presidential terms."

His brother-in-law Brendan Walsh was introduced as the man who had brought the first 'Make America Great Again' flag to Doonbeg.

"I love Trump, I absolutely love him. He's doing great for America," he said.

"The man is going to win by a landslide in 2020."

Walsh was having dinner at the golf club last night with his wife, daughter and two grandchildren in the hope of catching a glimpse of Trump.

"He's not what you think he is - he's a very decent man, a family man," he said, while admitting that he had never actually met him himself.

Trotting up and down the main street of the village were two cart horses drawing a trap, driven by local man Mick O'Dea.

He had been drafted in as something of a prop, to evoke olden times in Doonbeg.

"It's a hobby," he said.

He was happy with how the visit was going.

"I have nothing against the man," he said.

He had been in the pubs the night before and said the Trump sons were "nice people".

"And sure we got a pint out of them," he added.

In the Igoe Inn, close to the cordoned-off road leading to the golf club, publican Caroline Kennedy said people didn't understand why locals were supportive of Trump.

"We've our own little industry down here," she said. "For us, he is our economy."

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