Belfast Telegraph

Trump pledges to visit border during trip to Ireland next year

By Michelle Devane

US President Donald Trump has said he will visit Ireland - and would go to the border.

He met Irish premier Leo Varadkar at the White House and said the trip could happen next year.

The Taoiseach met the President as part of a traditional programme of events ahead of St Patrick's Day.

President Trump was asked by reporters if he would like to visit Ireland soon.

He said: "I will. I love it, I love it.

"I have property there and I might not get to see it again, but I will."

President Trump owns a golf course at Doonbeg in Co Clare.

The Taoiseach admitted he did not play golf but said he was always ready to learn and the President could take him for a few rounds.

Last year, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that Mr Trump plans to visit Royal Portrush for the Open golf championship in July 2019.

The DUP's Ian Paisley said at the time that he understood the golf-mad billionaire would be coming to the north Antrim coast for the world-famous competition.

Speaking about the Irish border yesterday, Mr Trump said: "That is an interesting border also, we have two interesting borders" - an apparent allusion to the US-Mexico frontier where he wants to build a wall.

After the meeting with Mr Trump, the Taoiseach said a firm date for his visit to Ireland had not yet been set - but the President had a "standing invitation".

He said during the discussions the president raised the issue of the Irish "undocumented" - those currently living in the US without legal permission to remain.

"It was something that was very much on his mind," he said.

"We have a measure of support and degree of enthusiasm from the administration to work on a solution for thousands of Irish people who are here undocumented but who are hard-working, tax-paying people who are very loyal to America."

Mr Varadkar said Brexit's impact on the Irish border also featured in the talks, which also involved Vice President Mike Pence.

"The president was very aware of the issues that could affect Northern Ireland if there is a return to a hard border and I think will be very much on our side in working for a solution to make sure that doesn't happen," he said.

Mr Varadkar was asked about Mr Pence's decision not to allow the media to attend their scheduled meeting at his residence in Washington DC this morning.

In an apparent break with protocol, Mr Pence's officials have indicated the media covering the annual St Patrick's Day programme are not being invited to the traditional remarks at the breakfast event.

The Taoiseach has pledged to raise issues around the Vice President's controversial stance on LGBT rights.

Mr Varadkar told media after his meeting with Mr Trump at the White House that he did not know why the encounter was going to be held behind closed doors and he would have preferred to see media there to document their comments.

"I appreciate from a media point of view you'd like to be there and we'd like you to be there too, but it's their decision that it'll be closed," Mr Varadkar said.

He added: "It allows us, maybe, to have a frank conversation that's easier to have without the media present."

Mr Varadkar said on Wednesday that Ireland believes in equality for all citizens, irrespective of gender, religion, race or sexual orientation.

Belfast Telegraph

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