Standoff over venue threatens to derail Trump visit to Ireland; publicly embassy says 'no standoff'
Posted May 17, 2019 8:08 p.m. EDT
Updated May 19, 2019 8:55 a.m. EDT
CNN — A standoff is heating up between advance teams from the Irish and US governments over a potential presidential visit next month to the Emerald Isle.
President Donald Trump is expected to travel to Ireland for two nights during his visit to Great Britain and France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
An Irish government source with knowledge of ongoing discussions told CNN that the White House is insisting the Irish prime minister, or taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, come to the President's golf course in Doonbeg to host a meeting between the two leaders.
According to the source, "The Irish government feel that protocol dictates that any event they host for President Trump should be at a venue of their choosing and certainly not at an hotel owned by Trump."
"It is a bit unseemly to demand that the taoiseach host President Trump at his hotel," the source said.
The source, who asked that his name not be used so he could speak freely, says Trump's chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, has been intimately involved in the discussions and has been insistent that Varadkar come to Doonbeg.
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.
The Irish side has offered to host Trump for dinner at a nearby venue, the Dromoland Castle, which is where President George W. Bush met with then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 2004, and to have Varadkar come to Trump's Doonbeg property for a breakfast.
"There was an attempt to compromise where the taoiseach would host a dinner for Mr. Trump at Dromoland and perhaps visit Doonbeg for breakfast as well," the source said.
Thus far, the source says, the White House has not accepted that offer and has threatened to have the President travel to one of his golf properties in Scotland instead.
"The standoff is ongoing with attempts to find a compromise," the source said, pointing out that standard diplomatic protocol dictates that "there is no trip officially until the White House make the final announcement."
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told Irish broadcaster RTE that there have been "ongoing conversations" between the Department of Foreign Affairs, the US embassy and the White House, but that he can't share any more information "until details are finalized and agreed and until they are announced by the US side, which is what protocol demands when a US president visits Ireland, I can't really give any more details."
Another Irish diplomatic source with knowledge of the planning says, "The visit is already very delicate politically for Varadkar, as President Trump is incredibly unpopular in Ireland."
"Leo is doing his best to minimize his exposure to Trump on this visit, but he is in a tricky position, as practically every American digital company's European headquarters are in Ireland," the source said, noting that corporations such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and Apple all have headquarters there.
Siobhán Miley, press counsellor at the Irish Embassy in Washington, said the reports of a standoff are not true.
"Contrary to what you have reported, there is no standoff about the venue for a meeting between President Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar," MIley said. "Having met him twice in the White House, the Taoiseach would welcome an opportunity to meet President Trump should he decide to visit Ireland while he is in Europe next month."
When asked about the possibility of a Trump visit, Varadkar told reporters recently, "The President of America is always welcome here. We respect the role no matter what we think of the person themselves."
The taoiseach also said protesters are more than welcome: Ireland "is a democracy, and peaceful protest is part of democracy and I would certainly never criticize anyone for taking part in a protest if they wish to express their views."
The two leaders last met in Washington in March, and Trump said then that "I will be coming at some point this year. I missed it last year, and I would have loved to have been there. It's a special place and I have a very warm spot for Doonbeg, I will tell you that. It is just a great place."
"It is really great to have the prime minister of Ireland with us," Trump said at the time, and the two were becoming "fast friends."