UPDATE (1:45 p.m. EST): This story has been updated to include the latest comments from the White House.
CORK, Ireland — Donald Trump has abruptly canceled his planned visit to Ireland less than two weeks after announcing it, the Irish government said Tuesday.
The cancellation was reported in multiple Irish media outlets, with no explanation beyond “scheduling conflicts” given for the sudden change of heart. State broadcaster RTE reported that the reversal was a surprise even to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
Yet despite the Irish government saying the trip was cancelled, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders resisted ruling it out entirely Tuesday afternoon, saying the president was still traveling to Paris in November and might make a quick stopover in Ireland. Sanders said his team was “still finalizing whether Ireland will be a stop on that trip. As details are confirmed, we will let you know."
The reversal would be a dodged headache for the Irish government, which started fielding complaints the moment the White House announced what would’ve been Trump’s first visit as U.S. president.
The White House on Aug. 31 announced Trump’s intention to pay a visit to Ireland as part of a planned trip to Europe in November, with the president visiting Dublin and his golf resort in Doonbeg, County Clare. The trip was promoted it as a chance to “renew the deep and historic ties between our two nations,” but Ireland was far less enthused.
Almost immediately upon the visit being announced, protest marches were organized and a large number of politicians — including government ministers — said they would boycott the visit.
“Ireland is an open and tolerant nation, committed to peace and democracy,” Brendan Howlin, leader of the Labour Party, said earlier this month. “Trump’s values are not our values, and there should be no welcome for this man. Trump is a menace to democracy and our way of life. Trump is not welcome in Ireland.”
Richard Boyd Barrett, a member of parliament for the People Before Profit party, slammed Varadkar for accepting the invitation.
"Donald Trump is a promoter of the politics of hate, of corporate greed, of war and of prejudice, and I think it's really shameful that Leo Varadkar would bring him over here to legitimize and endorse those politics.”
The large balloon depicting a baby Trump in diapers that greeted Trump on his recent visit to London was set to be brought from the U.K. as part of the demonstrations against the U.S. president’s visit.
U.S. presidents have typically received very warm welcomes in Ireland — Barack Obama even had a motorway stop named after him — given the two countries’ deep links, but Trump’s controversial policies, particularly on immigration, have made him a focus of anger for many Irish people.
Cover image: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump holds a golf club during a media event on the sand dunes of the Menie estate, the site for Trump's then-proposed golf resort, near Aberdeen, Scotland, Britain May 27, 2010. REUTERS/David Moir/File Photo