By Steve Holland and Conor Humphries
DOONBEG/SHANNON, Ireland (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump left Ireland on Friday to return to Washington following a five-day stay in Europe that also included a lavish state visit to Britain and a trip to France to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day operation.
After being feted by Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family during three days of pomp in Britain, Trump spent two nights in Ireland on a far more low-key visit, camped almost entirely at one of his golf resorts in the west of the country.
Trump finished his trip with a round of golf at the Greg Norman-designed course, interrupted only by a group of children who, along with their teachers, were strategically perched on a hill by the 9th hole hoping to catch a glimpse of the president.
“They are just absolutely gobsmacked, they had an amazing morning,” principal Aideen O’Mahony, whose 27-student school is based inside the security perimeter, told national broadcaster RTE after Trump, wearing a red USA hat, stood for photographs and spoke to the children who also sang for him by the fairway.
While the golf resort tweeted a video of Trump smacking his first tee shot of the day down the fairway, one of the children he met told reporters that one of the president’s less accurate shots later in the round ended up in the adjacent sand dunes.
Although Trump stayed in the hotel throughout, his sons got a rapturous reception in the local village of Doonbeg when they toured its pubs on Wednesday, buying drinks for everyone. Trump is already popular with many residents, who credit him with securing their livelihoods when he bought the resort out of receivership in 2014.
“If he wasn’t here all these people would be unemployed, or maybe in England or America or somewhere, so he is doing a great job,” said Marion O’Callaghan, 84, who met Trump on Friday and whose family owned part of the land the course was built on almost 20 years ago.
There was protest at the visit, however, in Dublin where the “Trump Baby” inflatable blimp, a staple of marches against the president, was flown in on Thursday after again becoming a rallying point for thousands of anti-Trump protesters in London earlier in the week.
Trump mainly glossed over some of his disagreements with Britain during the visit there, promising a “phenomenal” trade deal once the country leaves the European Union.
In Ireland, he also backed Ireland’s stance that its near neighbour’s departure from the EU cannot lead to the re-emergence of a hard border with Northern Ireland or threaten two decades of peace in the British-ruled province.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Catherine Evans and Frances Kerry)