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Tánaiste forgoing Trump meeting for trip to NI 'where there is real work to do'

Tánaiste Simon Coveney will not meet US President Donald Trump today as he is going to Northern Ireland “where there is real work to do.”

He will be participating in talks with representatives of the five political parties in the North along with Northern Secretary Karen Bradley. “We want to get a deal before the marching season.”

Mr Coveney told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland that President Higgins got “the mood of the Irish people quite well” in his comments about Mr Trump’s position on climate change.

When asked about Mr Higgins’s description of President Trump’s policy on climate change as “regressive and pernicious”, Mr Coveney said that he thought the word regressive was a better adjective.

The main focus of the Taoiseach during talks with Mr Trump will be on protecting Ireland’s interests and the peace process, he said.

“It’s no secret that we don’t agree with President Trump’s views on Brexit. The focus of the talk will be the impact of Brexit on Ireland. Successive US administrations have been supportive of the peace process.

We will insist on protecting the peace process, we expect the US to support that.

Mr Coveney acknowledged that many were dismayed at Mr Trump’s views on climate change.

He said he would not be surprised if the issue of Chinese company Huawei will be discussed. “We’ll keep an open mind. At the moment we have no reason to share his concerns.”

In relation to the talks in Belfast, he said “we have some heavy lifting to do in the next two weeks.” He wants to avoid “a summer of uncertainty”.

The US president is due to begin his three-day visit to Ireland when he lands in Shannon at 4pm this afternoon.

During his visit, he will hold a bilateral meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport.

It is understood the two leaders will discuss the EU and Brexit, Northern Ireland and trade along with access to the E3 visa for Irish citizens.

President Trump and his wife Melania will spend two nights at his Doonbeg hotel and golf resort in Co Clare.

Thousands of people are set to take part in protests across Ireland to coincide with Mr Trump’s visit and he protests have prompted a massive security operation across parts of the country.

1,400 garda members are on patrol in Co Clare this week backed up by specialist units and a navy ship off the coast.