Trump’s previously announced visit to Ireland in question

Posted at 11:57 AM, Sep 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-11 15:10:42-04

President Donald Trump’s planned trip to Ireland in November is now in question after the Irish government announced its postponement Tuesday.

Complicating matters, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed in a statement shortly afterward that the administration was still “finalizing” whether Ireland would be a stop on a previously announced trip to Europe.

The dueling accounts added to the confusion surrounding the presidential visit, whose announcement last month caught Irish officials by surprise and which was likely to draw angry protests.

In an apparent communication breakdown, representatives of the Irish government said it was their understanding that Trump’s schedule would not permit a visit in November.

In August, the White House announced Trump would visit Paris to attend events on Nov. 11, the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, as well as make a stop in Ireland. In its announcement, the White House said the visit would serve to “renew the deep and historic ties between our two nations.”

On Tuesday, Sanders confirmed the Paris leg of the trip was still scheduled, but indicated no final decision on a stop in Ireland had been made.

The trip to Ireland would be Trump’s first to the country as President but his reception there was expected to be frosty. Canceling the stop would amount to “a bullet dodged for sure,” an Irish diplomatic source familiar with negotiations told CNN.

Many officials in the Irish government “were definitely not looking forward to Trump’s visit and were planning a low-key program mostly out of sight of the public as there is a lot of antipathy (in Ireland) towards Trump,” the diplomatic source said.

“A number of government ministers, who are independents as it is a minority government, were planning to join the protests,” the source said.

Trump’s visit also coincided with the inauguration of Ireland’s next president. Five people are in the running for the post, including incumbent President Michael Higgins. Elections are set for October 26. Ireland will also mark its own commemoration of the end of World War I, where tens of thousands of Irish soldiers died.

Trump was expected to visit Dublin and his Dooberg golf resort in County Clare during his now-in-question visit.

Irish officials described scant communication from Washington in the lead-up to the trip’s announcement and apparent postponement.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the state broadcaster RTE the trip’s announcement had come “a little bit out of the blue” earlier this month. The Irish diplomatic source said indications the trip would be scrubbed were also a surprise.

“We were taken by surprise when the news broke that he was not coming, as we were when it was announced he was coming,” the source said.

The President is scheduled to travel to G20 meetings later in November in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, and make a stop in Colombia. Trump was originally meant to visit Colombia in April but scrapped the trip to remain in Washington and oversee military strikes in Syria.