Belfast Telegraph

Trump puts foot in his mouth over Irish border during first official visit

By Kevin Doyle

Donald Trump had to be reminded that Ireland does not want a border with Northern Ireland after he compared the situation on the island with the wall he wants on his own frontier with Mexico.

During his first official visit to Ireland as US president, a badly briefed Mr Trump denied his two-day trip was purely a PR exercise for his golf resort in Doonbeg, saying he was "honoured" to be in the Republic.

Mr Trump said relations between the US and Ireland were as good as they had ever been.

"We have millions of Irish and I think I know most of them because they are my friends," the US President said.

While the US and Irish delegations disagreed on the issue of Brexit, sources who attended the private meeting in Shannon Airport said the atmosphere was "genuinely warm".

On Brexit, Mr Trump appeared confused as to why the Irish Government was opposed to the UK leaving the EU.

"I think that will all work out - it will all work out very well and also for you, with your wall, your border," he said.

"I mean we have a border situation in the United States and you have one over here, but I hear it's going to work out very well.

"I think it's going to work out well... it's going to work out very well here."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Mr Trump Ireland wanted to avoid any wall or border with Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

The US President then agreed the free-flowing Irish border should be preserved.

"The way it works now is good, and I think you want to try to keep it that way," he said.

"I know that a big point of contention with respect to Brexit is your border.

"I'm sure it's going to work out well. I know they are focused very heavily on it."

Asked if he understood Brexit could be economically bad for Ireland, Mr Trump said it could actually be "very, very good".

After the US President departed for Doonbeg, Mr Varadkar told reporters: "He's President of America.

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

"There are nearly 200 countries in the world.

"I don't think it's possible for him to have an in-depth and detailed understanding of all the issues in every single country, which is why the engagement is important."

Mr Varadkar said the US President "didn't elaborate on why he thinks Brexit would be good for Ireland".

Asked if was concerned that Mr Trump had appeared to compare the Irish border with the US-Mexico border, the Taoiseach said: "We very much discussed the different nature of the border.

"I explained that, 20 or 30 years ago, we did have a hard border between North and South, particularly when the Troubles were happening, and there were customs posts and so on, and that everyone in Ireland - North and South, unionist and nationalist - wants to avoid a return to a hard border, but that Brexit is a threat in that regard and an unintended consequence that we can't allow."

Mr Trump also appeared to express optimism for the future of Northern Ireland, despite the ongoing impasse between the leading parties.

He also said he believes the decision over who will replace Theresa May as Prime Minister is "very important".

"Once that happens, that person will get in and try to make a deal, and maybe if they don't make a deal, they do it in a different way," he said.

"But I know one thing - Ireland is going to be in great shape... Ireland is a special place that's going to be in very good shape."

East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell last night expressed disappointment that Mr Trump would not be coming north of the border.

Mr Campbell said he "would have been delighted to welcome the US President to my constituency, where he could have visited the golf course in Portrush where the Open will take place in a few weeks".

He added: "I agree with President Trump that the border will be fine after Brexit.

"No one is going to build any walls or checkpoints. We just need to get on with implementing the outcome of the vote in June 2016. I am glad he can see through the scaremongering which has been largely led by the Irish Foreign Minister and the Irish Prime Minister.

"It would be physically impossible to police the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"London, Dublin and Brussels have all said we can avoid a hard border, even in a no-deal scenario, so everyone should dial down the rhetoric."

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