News that US President Donald Trump will visit to Ireland in November has delivered a surprise to the government late in the summer.
His trip marks the first visit of a US president to Ireland since Barack Obama paid a visit to Dublin and Moneygall, Co Offaly. Obama, then in the third year of his presidency, was greeted by thousands at College Green in Dublin. This time, the main challenge for civil servants is to control the protests that are likely to occur.
The announcement of the president's visit on Friday was expected by the Dublin government, although serious increases by the White House to Irish officials about a possible visit were only taken seriously last week.
The Trump government had initially weighed on a trip to Ireland during the visit of Mr. Trump to Britain in July, after his presence at the NATO summit in Brussels. In the end, however, he chose to spend time on his golf course in Scotland before flying to Helsinki for his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The proposed visit in November was a decision by the White House.
With a permanent invitation from taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2017 during his visit to St. Patrick's Day to Washington, and renewed this year by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, it falls for the White House to accept this invitation when he chooses . "President Trump may be a controversial president, but he is still president of the United States," said one official who gave a briefing on the preparations.
The attitude of Ireland towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an issue that Ireland and America do not come face to face
Plans for a visit to Ireland came to the fore when Mr. Trump decided to attend the commemoration of the Armistice Day in November in Paris. That decision was made about two weeks ago, after he decided to withdraw plans for his own military parade in Washington DC in November. Initially he had the idea for a major military event in Washington after attending the Bastille Day celebrations in France last year. After deciding to attend the centennial commemoration of the truce in Paris, the White House then approached Irish officials via the embassies in Dublin and Washington about a possible Irish visit.
Since the news of the visit broke, the silence of the Taoiseach was remarkable. But he will probably come face to face with Mr. Trump later this month when both men go to the UN General Assembly in New York.
As was the case for many other countries, the prospect of visiting Trump is a diplomatic dilemma, given its unpopularity at international level.
But although the historical ties between Ireland and the US are likely to be emphasized during the trip, Ireland faces some challenges to make the visit run smoothly.
The decision of the Dáil to approve in July a resolution with several parties that condemns the American immigration policy to separate children and their parents, has not gone unnoticed in Washington. During his speech to the Dáil prior to the vote, Varadkar said: "No one can defend the scenes of children who are forced to be separated from their parents". The fact that the government was pushing to disapprove the actions of the US government – although it often did not criticize other regimes like China for human rights violations – was seen as significant.
Similarly, the vote in the Seanad in July forbid the import of goods from Israeli settlements, the eyes of US legislators, including Irish-American figures such as landlord Paul Ryan. While the ihdo-american bonhomie goes a long way in ensuring positive relations between Dublin and Washington, Ireland's attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an issue where Ireland and America do not see each other. The enormous power of the Israeli lobby in American politics – both on the part of the Republicans and the Democrats – is something that Irish officials have to deal with carefully, given Ireland's attitude towards this issue.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney criticized, within minutes of his support for Mr Trump's visit, the criticism of the American decision to terminate aid to a Palestinian refugee organization of the UN in a tweet.
"This decision is shocking and makes peace even more difficult, how you can promote (peace) and target innocent children," he said, to illustrate the gap between Ireland and the US on the issue.
The government has the unenviable task of welcoming an American president who is one of the most divisive figures in recent history
The precise itinerary for the presidential visit will be decided after a Washington advance, including secret service details, will travel to Ireland in the coming weeks to assess the logistics of the visit.
Mr. Trump prefers to stay in his own bed – or in one of his own hotels – when he is traveling, so any visit to Dublin is probably short and can focus on the American ambassador's home in Phoenix Park. , a relatively easy-to-secure area, as well as the Trump resort in Doonbeg in Co Clare. In the meantime, the government has the unenviable task of welcoming an American president who is one of the most divisive figures in recent history.
Preparing to negotiate that diplomatic cord is the main challenge for the coming weeks.