Donald Trump to visit Northern Ireland for 2019 Open at Portrush
Exclusive US Vice President reveals trip is on their itinerary after invitation from Ian Paisley
Donald Trump is set to visit Portrush in 2019 as the seaside town hosts golf's Open tournament, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
The world's most powerful - and controversial - political leader is a massive golf fan and will make a pilgrimage to north Antrim for the sport's most prestigious competition.
Mr Trump yesterday described Royal Portrush as "a great, great course", and vowed to visit Ireland during his time in the White House.
The DUP's Ian Paisley met with US Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday night, where Mr Trump's right-hand man was the guest of honour at a gala dinner in Washington DC.
And the 'Veep' assured the North Antrim MP the President's travel plans also included Northern Ireland.
Later, Mr Paisley said he had invited the golf-loving billionaire to the Open in Portrush in three year's time.
And it is understood that Mr Trump - who recently played 18 holes at the Trump International Golf Club in Florida with Co Down superstar Rory McIlroy - will take up the offer.
Mr Paisley also said he and Mr Pence had chatted about both faith and politics.
"I invited him to visit Northern Ireland and he has assured me that NI will be on both his and the President's itinerary to visit during the presidency," the DUP veteran said.
"He agreed that progress on Northern Ireland's political talks needed to be made quickly and wished the parties well with them.
"I found him very personable and he has provided me with contact details of his office and staff to keep in touch."
After Taoiseach Enda Kenny handed over the traditional bowl of shamrock at yesterday's traditional ceremony, Mr Trump paid tribute to the delegation from both sides of the Irish border.
He said: "I want to extend a special welcome to a group of distinguished local, political and society leaders and they are real leaders who are with us from Northern Ireland.
"Great people including the mayor of Belfast and the head of NI Civil Service - that's a lot of power there.
"Lord Mayor (Brian) Kingston and Sir Malcolm McKibbon and it's wonderful to have you. They are going to be having a great Open Championship very soon, I know that's right, at a great course, at a great, great course."
Mr Paisley added that the president "had signalled that Northern Ireland was right on his agenda".
Mr Trump said: "Ireland will find us to be an ever faithful partner and an always loyal friend, we will be there for you."
Pointing at the delegation from Northern Ireland, he added: "And we will be there for you."
As well as Portrush, Mr Trump's motorcade may well end up heading down Antrim's Coast Road to Carrickfergus to the Andrew Jackson Cottage.
On Wednesday, Mr Trump paid tribute to Jackson, and visited the former US president's Nashville home to salute him on what would have been his 250th birthday.
Jackson's parents hailed from Boneyface near Carrickfergus, and the Andrew Jackson Cottage - a traditional thatched Ulster-Scots farmhouse built in 1750s - lies just outside the town.
Mr Trump has hailed Jackson as "one of our great presidents" and has compared himself to the two-term leader.
The grounds also contain the US Rangers Centre, a museum to the American soldiers first 'activated' there in 1942.
In his speech last night, Mr Trump said: "When American armed forces joined the fight in Europe during World War Two 75 years ago, our heroic troops first stepped off ships in Belfast harbour in Northern Ireland."
During his formal speech, Mr Pence spoke about his family ties to Ireland and his many visits to the country, Mr Paisley said.
"Afterwards I was invited to meet with him and we talked about Northern Ireland and about his very public commitment to his faith.
"His faith is clearly very important to him.
"He obviously knows my father was a preacher and we talked about prayer and it's importance in public life."
Mr Paisley also revealed that the Vice President was a big fan of two modern-day hymn-writers from Northern Ireland.
"He knows Keith and Kristyn Getty the Northern Ireland composer and singer - and he hopes to invite them to events to perform during his tenure of office.
"They have performed for him in the past and he was full of praise for their ability."