Belfast Telegraph

'The Donald' gets into the swing of things after landing in rough with border faux pas

By Kevin Doyle

Donald Trump has a very limited knowledge of Ireland, but there was one thing that fascinated him yesterday.

He wanted to understand how such a small place can have such a big influence on the world.

We're used to Americans coming over and flattering the Irish with faux praise about how their ancestors built their country. Trump is somewhat different, though.

Sources say the US President told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that he always thinks of the Republic as "a huge country" because of the impact its people have had. Varadkar happily told him the country has just five million people.

It was one of the lighter moments in a meeting that briskly moved from serious topics to sport. Brexit, immigration and all featured, before conversation swayed to The Open.

At one point the Irish side found itself explaining how, for some sports, the whole island plays as one team, while for others, there are Republic and Northern Ireland teams. The US President was fascinated.

Insiders say the atmosphere was "warm", which probably matched the temperature in the makeshift meeting room that was dressed up with a few net curtains and colourful flowers.

On the American side, Trump had some big hitters, but they didn't throw any punches.

There was his Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin.

Varadkar's back-up team included his Chief of Staff, Brian Murphy, main Brexit brain John Callinan, US envoy John Deasy and Ambassador Dan Mulhall.

Even before the meeting began, it was obvious Trump was in a good mood. He allowed journalists to fire questions at him for eight minutes without trading any insults.

He also denied being in Ireland to play golf and promote his hotel but struggled to show that he had done any actual preparation for the meeting.

The Taoiseach was brave enough to publicly correct him when he tried to compare the Irish border situation with his plans to build a wall between the US and Mexico.

"His basic knowledge isn't great," a source admitted.

However, Mr Varadkar insisted afterwards that the purpose of the meeting was to educate the US delegation.

Soon, Trump and his wife, Melania, were on board a chopper bound for Doonbeg. Irish officials were more than a little relieved.

Mr Varadkar went on to defend the cost of providing 1,500 uniformed and 500 specialist gardai for the trip.

"The good bilateral relationship between Ireland and America is worth a lot more than €10m," he said.

Trump is unlikely to have taken in much of what was said, but he didn't call anybody, including Michael D Higgins, a stone cold loser.

No real damage done, then, which is the best they could have hoped for. There was no mention of wind turbines or fake news.

"I learn from my mistakes," the Taoiseach laughed as he left the post-match analysis session.

US President Donald Trump (R) and First Lady Melania Trump (L) disembark Air Force One upon arrival at Shannon Airport in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland on June 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (R) and First Lady Melania Trump (L) disembark Air Force One upon arrival at Shannon Airport in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland on June 5, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Protesters at the peace camp on the road to Shannon Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)
US President Donald Trump (R) and First Lady Melania Trump (L) disembark Air Force One upon arrival at Shannon Airport in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland on June 5, 2019 after attending an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings wrapping up a UK State Visit. - US President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II joined 300 veterans in paying tribute to their fallen comrades at a poignant ceremony on Wednesday marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Wrapping up a three-day State Visit to the UK Trump flew to Ireland where he is expected to hold a meeting with prime minister Leo Varadkar and visit his golf course near the village of Doonbeg. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (L) meets with Irish Prime Minsiter Leo Varadkar (R) at Shannon Airport in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland on June 5, 2019 after attending an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings wrapping up a UK State Visit. - US President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II joined 300 veterans in paying tribute to their fallen comrades at a poignant ceremony on Wednesday marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Wrapping up a three-day State Visit to the UK Trump flew to Ireland where he is expected to hold a meeting with prime minister Leo Varadkar and visit his golf course near the village of Doonbeg. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump is seen during his meeting with Irish Prime Minsiter Leo Varadkar (unseen) at Shannon Airport in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland on June 5, 2019 after attending an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings wrapping up a UK State Visit. - US President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II joined 300 veterans in paying tribute to their fallen comrades at a poignant ceremony on Wednesday marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Wrapping up a three-day State Visit to the UK Trump flew to Ireland where he is expected to hold a meeting with prime minister Leo Varadkar and visit his golf course near the village of Doonbeg. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
SHANNON, IRELAND - JUNE 05: US President Donald Trump during a bilateral meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Shannon airport on June 5, 2019 in Shannon, Ireland. President Trump will use his Trump International golf resort in nearby Doonbeg as a base for his three day stay in Ireland. The resort employs over 300 local people in the area and the village will roll out a warm welcome for the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Malania Trump arrive in Marine One at Doonbeg, County Clare, on the first day of their visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Malania Trump arrive in Marine One at Doonbeg, County Clare, on the first day of their visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
SHANNON, IRELAND - JUNE 05: The Presidential cavalcade carrying US President Donald Trump departs Airforce One at Shannon airport on June 5, 2019 in Shannon, Ireland. President Trump will use his Trump International golf resort in nearby Doonbeg as a base for his three day stay in Ireland. The resort employs over 300 local people in the area and the village will roll out a warm welcome for the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Donald Trump Jr. (left), and Eric Trump (right), the sons of US President Donald Trump, pour drinks and meet locals in the village of Doonbeg in Co Clare. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Donald Trump Jr., the son of US President Donald Trump, pours drinks and meets locals in the village of Doonbeg in Co Clare, on the first day of US President Donald Trump's visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Donald Trump Jr. (left), the son of US President Donald Trump, pours drinks and meets locals in the village of Doonbeg in Co Clare, on the first day of US President Donald Trump's visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Eric Trump, the son of US President Donald Trump, pours drinks and meets locals in the village of Doonbeg in Co Clare, on the first day of US President Donald Trump's visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Eric Trump, the son of US President Donald Trump, pours drinks and meets locals in the village of Doonbeg in Co Clare, on the first day of US President Donald Trump's visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Donald Trump Jr. (left) and Eric Trump, the sons of US President Donald Trump, pour drinks and meet locals in the village of Doonbeg in Co Clare, on the first day of US President Donald Trump's visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Eric Trump, the son of US President Donald Trump, pours drinks and meets locals in the village of Doonbeg in County Clare, on the first day of US President Donald Trump's visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Eric Trump, the son of US President Donald Trump, pours drinks and meets locals in the village of Doonbeg in Co Clare, on the first day of US President Donald Trump's visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Eric Trump, the son of US President Donald Trump, meets locals in the village of Doonbeg in County Clare, on the first day of US President Donald Trump's visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Malania Trump arrive in Doonbeg, County Clare, on the first day of their visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
SHANNON, IRELAND - JUNE 05: US President Donald Trump arrives at Shannon Airport on June 5, 2019 in Shannon, Ireland. After visiting the UK for the D-Day 75th anniversary, US President Donald Trump will visit Ireland to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before travelling to the Trump International Golf Links resort in Doonbeg. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
IRELAND - JUNE 05: US First Lady, Melania Trump attends a welcome function on June 5, 2019 in Ireland. President Trump will use his Trump International golf resort in nearby Doonbeg as a base for his three day stay in Ireland. The resort employs over 300 local people in the area and the village will roll out a warm welcome for the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
IRELAND - JUNE 05: US First Lady, Melania Trump attends a welcome function on June 5, 2019 in Ireland. President Trump will use his Trump International golf resort in nearby Doonbeg as a base for his three day stay in Ireland. The resort employs over 300 local people in the area and the village will roll out a warm welcome for the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
IRELAND - JUNE 05: US First Lady, Melania Trump attends a welcome function on June 5, 2019 in Ireland. President Trump will use his Trump International golf resort in nearby Doonbeg as a base for his three day stay in Ireland. The resort employs over 300 local people in the area and the village will roll out a warm welcome for the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
A supporter of US President Donald Trump near to Shannon Airport following his arrival for his visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather near to Shannon Airport following his arrival for his visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather near to Shannon Airport following his arrival for his visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Protestors stand at the peace camp on the road to Shannon Airport following the arrival of US President Donald Trump for his visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Climate change protestor Saoirse Exton, 13, from County Clare at the peace camp on the road to Shannon Airport following the arrival of US President Donald Trump for his visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Protestors stand at the peace camp on the road to Shannon Airport following the arrival of US President Donald Trump for his visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Protestors at the peace camp on the road to Shannon Airport following the arrival of US President Donald Trump for his visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather near to Shannon Airport following his arrival for his visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather near to Shannon Airport following his arrival for his visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather near to Shannon Airport following his arrival for his visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
SHANNON, IRELAND - JUNE 05: US President Donald Trump signs the visitors book as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (L) and First Lady Melania Trump (R) watch on at Shannon Airport on June 5, 2019 in Shannon, Ireland. After visiting the UK for the D-Day 75th anniversary, US President Donald Trump will visit Ireland to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before travelling to the Trump International Golf Links resort in Doonbeg.(Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
SHANNON, IRELAND - JUNE 05: US President Donald Trump signs the visitors book following his arrival at Shannon Airport on June 5, 2019 in Shannon, Ireland. After visiting the UK for the D-Day 75th anniversary, US President Donald Trump will visit Ireland to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before travelling to the Trump International Golf Links resort in Doonbeg. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) greets US President Donald Trump at Shannon Airport for his visit to Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
SHANNON, IRELAND - JUNE 05: US President Donald Trump during a bilateral meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Shannon airport on June 5, 2019 in Shannon, Ireland. President Trump will use his Trump International golf resort in nearby Doonbeg as a base for his three day stay in Ireland. The resort employs over 300 local people in the area and the village will roll out a warm welcome for the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
US President Donald Tump waves as he arrives at Shannon Airport, on Air Force Two for a visit to the Republic of Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather near Shannon Airport (Brian Lawless/PA)
SHANNON, IRELAND - JUNE 05: US Marine Corps aircraft Marine One awaits the arrival of US President Donald Trump at Shannon Airport on June 5, 2019 in Shannon, Ireland. After visiting the UK for the D-Day 75th anniversary, US President Donald Trump will visit Ireland to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before travelling to the Trump International Golf Links resort in Doonbeg. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) meets with Irish Prime Minsiter Leo Varadkar (R) at Shannon Airport in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland on June 5, 2019 after attending an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings wrapping up a UK State Visit. - US President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II joined 300 veterans in paying tribute to their fallen comrades at a poignant ceremony on Wednesday marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Wrapping up a three-day State Visit to the UK Trump flew to Ireland where he is expected to hold a meeting with prime minister Leo Varadkar and visit his golf course near the village of Doonbeg. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump (R) and First Lady Melania Trump (L) disembark Air Force One upon arrival at Shannon Airport in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland on June 5, 2019 after attending an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings wrapping up a UK State Visit. - US President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II joined 300 veterans in paying tribute to their fallen comrades at a poignant ceremony on Wednesday marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Wrapping up a three-day State Visit to the UK Trump flew to Ireland where he is expected to hold a meeting with prime minister Leo Varadkar and visit his golf course near the village of Doonbeg. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
US First Lady Melania Trump (R) is greeted by Irish Prime Minsiter Leo Varadkar (2L) upon disembarking Air Force One upon arrival at Shannon Airport in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland on June 5, 2019 after attending an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings wrapping up a UK State Visit. - US President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II joined 300 veterans in paying tribute to their fallen comrades at a poignant ceremony on Wednesday marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Wrapping up a three-day State Visit to the UK Trump flew to Ireland where he is expected to hold a meeting with prime minister Leo Varadkar and visit his golf course near the village of Doonbeg. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
SHANNON, IRELAND - JUNE 05: US Marine Corps aircraft Marine One awaits the arrival of US President Donald Trump at Shannon Airport on June 5, 2019 in Shannon, Ireland. After visiting the UK for the D-Day 75th anniversary, US President Donald Trump will visit Ireland to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before travelling to the Trump International Golf Links resort in Doonbeg. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) is greeted by Irish Prime Minsiter Leo Varadkar (3L) upon disembarking Air Force One upon arrival at Shannon Airport in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland on June 5, 2019 after attending an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings wrapping up a UK State Visit. - US President Donald Trump and Queen Elizabeth II joined 300 veterans in paying tribute to their fallen comrades at a poignant ceremony on Wednesday marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Wrapping up a three-day State Visit to the UK Trump flew to Ireland where he is expected to hold a meeting with prime minister Leo Varadkar and visit his golf course near the village of Doonbeg. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (third right) awaits the arrival of US President Donald Trump at Shannon Airport for his state visit to Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2019. See PA story IRISH Trump. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
US First Lady Melania Trump pictured as she arrives at Shannon airport for the start of her visit to Ireland. Picture; Gerry Mooney
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrives at Shannon airport for the start of their visit to Ireland. Picture; Gerry Mooney
President Donald Trump and First Lady melania touch down in Shannon Airport. Pictures by Gerry Mooney
President Donald Trump and First Lady melania touch down in Shannon Airport. Pictures by Gerry Mooney
President Donald Trump and First Lady melania touch down in Shannon Airport. Pictures by Gerry Mooney
US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrive at Shannon airport for the start of their visit to Ireland. Picture; Gerry Mooney

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