Despite our desire for a Trump-free ten days in Ireland, our President was on too many minds over there. Landing at Shannon Airport, we had to pass the VIP Lounge where just days before Trump and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar met because Varadkar didn’t want an official visit to be at Trump’s golf course, and Trump didn’t want to meet at a nearby historic castle that he didn’t own.
Locals and the press were still buzzing about his visit organized to promote his golf course. Sons Donald, Jr. and Eric charmed the crowd at a local Doonbeg pub, taking over the taps and buying a free round for everyone. When they departed amidst good cheer, they stiffed the establishment, saying they don’t carry credit cards with them and causing the proprietor to have to bill the Trump organization, which days later reportedly anted up. From our experience, Irish sentiment seemed overwhelmingly anti-Trump, though some in the tourist business were reluctant to share their views until they ascertained the opinion of their American visitors.
The Director of Dublin’s EPIC emigration museum invited the U.S. President to visit the brilliant new museum to help him understand immigration and change his perspective. In an open letter, he wrote, “We know you’ll have a busy presidential itinerary, but we promise you an enlightening experience in less time than it takes to play a round of golf.”
Outside the Parliament (Dail) building, several Veterans for Peace were protesting the United States’ use of Shannon Airport as a center in transporting troops to the Middle East, in violation of the Irish neutrality law. Some joke shops and gift stores were studded with cartoonish postures, masks, and tee shirts lampooning our President. There were no MAGA hats and Trump supporters were not readily visible, though at Sinnott’s Pub near St. Stephen’s Green we saw a man wearing a black tee shirt featuring Trump’s head. On closer inspection, the inscription read “not my President.”
Time and again, people expressed hope that Trump would not be reelected in 2020 but fear he will be. One major concern is his position on Brexit and his seeming ignorance about the implications of a hard Brexit for Ireland. The Good Friday Peace Agreement, designed in 1998 to bring an end to the bloodshed between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, called for open borders between north and south. Many fear a return to hard borders would increase the level of violence and undo the gains so painfully achieved and so tenuous. Yet, in his conversation with the Irish Prime Minister, Trump waxed poetic about border walls, saying they’re a good thing and reflecting on the desired wall between the United States and Mexico. Varadkar explained to Trump that a basic tenet of Irish policy is to avoid a hard border or a wall.
Donald Trump is no laughing matter, even in Ireland. With the likely ascension of Boris Johnson (sometimes dubbed “the British Trump” )to be the next British Prime Minister, pledged to a hard Brexit, what is today a persistent headache for Ireland could risk a fatal aneurysm. Trump’s stirring the pot was not well received.