This week President Donald J. Trump will become the 7th sitting US President to visit our shores.
Given the controversy that surrounds Trump and with the starting gun for the 2020 elections already having sounded the trip will spike interests here and across the world perhaps more so than any other previous presidential visits.
The reaction Trump gets here may well have wider significance as the former star of The Apprentice seeks to get an extended stay in The White House in the upcoming 2020 US elections.
The numbers show that although the Irish vote may not be as critical to presidential hopefuls as it once was, it can still play a big role in determining who gets the keys to The Oval Office.
Since John F. Kennedy’s historic first Presidential visit in June 1963, 5 of the 9 proceeding commanders in chief have touched down on Irish soil whilst in office. It should serve as a warning to future presidents seeking second terms that the four who didn’t make it here during their first term of office didn’t win re-election.
Presidents Jimmy Carter, Gerald Forde and George H.W Bush all failed in their bids for second terms, whilst Lyndon B. Johnston, the forth of the quartet not to seek a ‘Cead Mile Failte’ in the Emerald Isle during their first term in office did not seek reelection .
Interestingly the six presidents who did; JFK, Richard Nixon, Ronald Regan, Bill Clinton, George W.Bush and Barack Obama, as Trump will, all visited during their first terms in office.
Clearly getting the green seal of approval still matters when it comes to re-election!
Outside of official meetings with Presidents and Taoisigh, the real advantage of Presidential visits lies in the photo ops. Whether it’s the pressing of green flesh, the kissing of baby’s heads or the demonstrating of one’s ability to stomach a pint of porter, the capturing of moments that can be used in subsequent White House runs can prove to be very hopeful.
Below is a quick trip through the good, the bad and the ugly stand out moments from previous US Presidential visits.
The President: JFK
The Year: 1963 (June 26–29)
The fact the first state visit of a sitting US President occurred just months before his assassination made the historical trip all the more poignant. There were many stand out moments to choose from. JFKs trip to his ancestral home in Wexford and his trip down O’Connell St waving to the adoring masses are certainly highlights. However of all the images of JFK during “homecoming “ the pictures of Kennedy becoming the first US President to address our parliament is certainly one that showed not only the love and respect he was held with here in Ireland but helped further cement the critical relationship we have with the United States. The country at the time under Sean Lemmas as Taoiseach was going through a time of huge transformation and modernisation and the coming of The Prince of Camelot was a further sign that change was coming.
President Kennedy Addresses The Dail In 1963
Pic: Irish Mirror
The President: Richard Nixon
The Year: 1970 (October 3rd–5th)
Nixon was the first Republican President to visit Ireland and given the historical links between Ireland and the Democratic Party there certainly wasn’t the same hula bulla about the trip as compared to that of JFK’s seven years previously.
For many the visit is largely forgotten but for Nixon it was said to be of great personal importance. There were some nice moments for the Nixon’s, most notably his trip to his ancestral roots in Timahoe in Co Kildare but the image that stands out is the egging of his motor cade as he travelled through Dublin. Nixon’s policies in Vietnam were controversial to say the least and an encounter with protesters was perhaps inevitable. The impromptu egg shower further emphasised the contrast of JFK’s warm welcome to the rather lukewarm response to that of Nixon’s.
Protester Eggs President Nixon’s Motorcade
The President: Ronald Regan
The Year: 1984 (June 1st-3rd)
14 years after Nixon’s visit Ronald Regan deplaned in Ireland towards the end of his first term in office. Regan and First Lady Nancy weren’t universally welcomed however and some 500 protesters made their feelings known at Shannon Airport upon Air forces Ones arrival, among them was our current President Michael D. Higgins. Those gathered were protesting against the US’s foreign policy in South America.
The stand out moment was the image of President Regan downing a pint of Smithwicks in The Ronald Regan Bar in Ballyporeen in Co Tipperary, home of the late president’s ancestors. Regan stayed in touch with the family who ran the bar, The O’Farrell’s, over the years and when the bar was put up for sale those behind the Ronald Regan museum thought it would fit in perfectly at the Reagan foundation museum and so it came to pass. The pub was packed up lock stock and barrel and now sits pride of place at the Regan museum in California.
The Ronald Regan Pub in The Ronald Regan museum in California
Pic: Ronald Regan Foundation
The President: Bill Clinton
The Year(s) 1995, 1998, 2000
Bill Clinton’s popularity in Ireland has remained steadfast in the years since the former Governor of Arkansas has left office. Clinton was the first US President to make more than one official trip to Ireland and the first sitting US President to visit Northern Ireland. Clinton’s work in the peace process will forever be remembered both north and south of the border and he has visited many times since leaving office.
Across his three official Presidential visits there are many moments that stand out.
Addressing 80,000 supporters in college green on his first visit in 1995, teeing off in Ballybunion Golf Course in 1998 (a statue of which marking the event is now in situ in the Co Kerry town) and a besotted onlooker asking Hillary Clinton is she had “any sisters knocking around” being just a few.
However the sight of Clinton addressing the crowds outside of the Guildhall in Derry on a freezing cold November night on his first visit in 1995 declaring his promise to work for an end to violence at such a critical time in the peace process will live long in the memory.
It would be a further three years before the Good Friday Agreement would be signed but Clintons historic trip to the North played an important role in getting talks up and running and ensuring that both sides of the Northern divide knew they had the backing of the most powerful man in the world and perhaps more importantly the motivation of knowing the world was watching.
President Clinton Addresses Crowds Outside The Guildhall, Derry In 1995
President Clinton’s Statue in Ballybunion , Co Kerry
The President: George W. Bush
The Year(s): (2004, 2006)
Unlike his father, George H.W, George Jnr did visit Ireland as President; in fact he visited twice. The first coming in 2004 as part of an EU-US summit, the second, a 2006 Shannon stop over to visit troops who were on their way to Iraq, the 2006 layover isn’t considered an official Presidential visit. In 2004 The Texan arrived into Shannon amidst some of the tightest security the state had even seen. Picturesque Drumoland Castle in Co Clare played host with some 6000 security personal involved in protecting the President for the just about 24 hours he was with us.
A cursory glance on YouTube is enough to remind ourselves that the 44th Presidents time in office provided an unending list of cringe moments and they were most certainly not all confined to US soil.
At Drumoland Castle access was extremely limited but not enough from preventing a rather embarrassing photo of the President in his night-time carb from making the headlines.
Famously the president was pictured through his Presidential suite window in his vest after a day of meetings which led to a host of puns in the press. The gaffe aside, the trip certainly didn’t do his elect-ability any harm and ‘Dubba’ was re-elected the following November for a second term, the embarrassing pic may well have been the ‘vest thing that ever happened’
President Bush Pictured In his Vest During Irish Visit In 2004
The President: Barack Obama
The Year 2011: (May 23rd)
President Obama’s presidential visit was The Kennedy visit mark two. Kennedy came to Ireland as the first Catholic to hold office whilst Obama also arrived as a mould breaker, the US’s first black president. The Obamas were warmly received both in Dublin and in particular at Obamas ancestral home in Moneygal in co Offaly (home now of Obama plaza service station).
There were several stand out moments from the Obama’s short visit (less than 24 hours in total).
His downing of a pint of Guinness in Hayes pub in Moneygal is certainly amongst them as is the Presidents clarion cry of “Yes We Can” being translated into Irish at a speech on College green in front of a 20,000 strong crowd “Is Fidir Linn” indeed!
However the main photo op that did the rounds was perhaps not one the President would have wished for. The Presidential limousine known affectionately as “The Beast” managed to get itself stuck on a ramp outside of the US Embassy in Dublin which caused momentarily panic amongst the Presidents security detail.
P.O.T.U.S and F.L.O.T.U.S were quickly moved to a backup car to continue their onward trip to the Phoenix Park whilst the stricken “Beast” remained in places for several hours outside of the Embassy much to the bemusement and amusement of onlookers.
The Beast Stuck Outside US Embassy
The shutterbugs will be out in force this week for the arrival of President Trump and no doubt there will be plenty of pics hitting the headlines but will they be good, bad or ugly, only time and a perfectly timed photo will tell!