US President Donald Trump drew a parallel with his planned wall between the United States and Mexico as he expressed confidence that the Brexit logjam over the Irish border would work out “very well”.
Mr Trump made the comments to Irish premier Leo Varadkar on his first official visit to Ireland since becoming president.
At the start of a bilateral meeting with the Taoiseach in Shannon Airport in Co Clare, Mr Trump said Brexit could be “very, very good for Ireland”.
“I mean we have a border situation in the United States. And you have one over here but I hear it’s going to work out very well. I think it’s both going to work out well, it’s going to work out very well here.”
Mr Varadkar told Mr Trump that Ireland wanted to avoid any wall or border with Northern Ireland post-Brexit.
The president agreed that the current free-flowing Irish border should be preserved.
“And I’m sure it’s going to work out well. I know they are focused very heavily on it.”
Mr Trump rejected the suggestion Brexit would be bad for Ireland.
“I think it will be good, the big thing is going to be your border but hopefully that is going to work out and I think it will work out,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Mr Trump, Mr Varadkar said the president had told him he believed it was possible to keep the Irish border open.
“We didn’t go into any particular detail as to how he thinks it can be done but he understands that that has to be a shared objective – that if the UK is going to leave with a deal, that deal must involve legally-operable guarantees that we won’t see the emergence of a hard border between north and south,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said Mr Trump “didn’t elaborate on why he thinks Brexit would be good for Ireland”.
Around a hundred people turned out to protest at the entrance to Shannon Airport as Air Force One touched down just before 5pm.
The group were protesting against the president’s policies on climate change and the use of Shannon Airport by the American military.
A number of supporters of the president also gathered at the entrance.
His arrival in Ireland comes amid a massive security operation in west Co Clare.
A ring of steel has been erected around the five-star Doonbeg resort.
Around 3km of barriers and 3km of 6ft-high fencing have been put in place for the visit.
And 1,500 gardai have been drafted in throughout the area for three days.