U.S. vice-president Mike Pence has left Ireland following a two-day visit during which he attended official and private engagements in Dublin and Clare.
The visit, part of an extended European trip, was brought forward at short notice last Friday. Mr Pence wasn’t originally due in Ireland until this Friday.
Mr Pence, who arrived in Clare on Monday afternoon, travelled to Dublin yesterday where he was welcomed at Áras an Úachtaráin by President Michael D Higgins and later met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Later, Air Force Two and another C-32 support aircraft, returned to Shannon Airport where Mr Pence’s cavalcade was waiting to take him the one-hour drive back to Doonbeg where he controversially stayed at President Donald Trump’s family-owned five-star hotel and golf resort.
Last night, Mr Pence and his wife Karen were accompanied by his mother Nancy and sister Ann at a private family dinner at Morrissey’s restaurant which is run by his distant cousin Hugh McNally. Mr Pence worked in Morrissey’s pub in the early 80s for about two weeks when he first visited Ireland at the age of 22.
After enjoying dinner at Morrissey’s, Mr Pence and his family met with delighted locals and visitors.
Security was tight for the visit to the village which was locked down shortly after 6.00pm ahead of the private function. The N67 main route through the village for closed for several hours with armed and uniformed Gardaí manning roadblocks in the vicinity of Doonbeg.
The Irish Naval Service vessels LÉ Niamh and LÉ William Butler Yeats were also deployed as past of the joint operation .
Road closures and other restrictions put in place as part of the €5m security operation have since been lifted.
Air Force Two took off from Shannon at around 11.30am continued to the UK where he’s due to me embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson before continuing onto Iceland for further engagements.
Mr Pence defended a decision to stay at the Trump property in Doonbeg following criticism from some quarters and claims of “funnelling taxpayer money” to Trump by doing so.
Also, I hope you don't encounter bedbugs. Many people say there are lots of bedbugs at Trump properties. https://t.co/KgJfnMRSgt
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) September 3, 2019
Speaking in Dublin, Mr Pence said: “The opportunity to stay at the Trump National in Doonbeg, to accommodate the unique footprint that comes with our security detail and other personnel, made it logical. We checked it with the State Department. They approved us staying there.”
On board Air Force Two, when Mr Pence was travelling from Shannon to Dublin for engagements there, the vice president’s chief of staff Marc Short was quizzed by journalists about the decision for Mr Pence and his significant entourage to stay at the Trump property in Doonbeg.
He said President Trump had not ordered the vice president to stay at the hotel adding: “I don’t think it was a request, like a command. I think that it was a suggestion.”
Mr Short added that the US Secret Service was familiar with the Doonbeg hotel and local area after Mr Trump stayed there earlier this year.
Vice President Mike Pence & Second Lady Karen Pence are bid farewell by Shannon Group Chairman Rose Hynes, TD Pat Breen, Irish Ambassador to the US Dan Mulhall, as he takes off in Air Force 2 from #ShannonAirport following his visit to Ireland. ☘️✈️🇺🇸🇮🇪
Posted by Shannon Airport on Wednesday, September 4, 2019