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'It shouldn't distract from the focus': Groups unite to bring Trump baby to Ireland for presidential visit

The infamous balloon is set to be coming to Ireland in time for the US President’s visit.

Trump cultivates a particular persona that aims to distract from the narrative sometimes. This punctures that.

THE TRUMP BABY balloon could be on its way with a number of Irish-based organisations seeking to arrange its arrival in time for the visit of US President Donald Trump in November.

The unique balloon was a feature of protests in the UK during the president’s recent visit, and we could be seeing the image of him wearing a nappy floating over O’Connell Bridge in two months’ time.

Kevin Smith, a spokesperson for the Trump baby campaign in the UK, told TheJournal.ie that organisers planned to expand the protest to other countries, as they had crowdfunded more money than was needed for the initial campaign. 

“With the extra money, the plan was to get it into as many places as we can,” he said. “The two immediate dates for that are Paris and Dublin.”

Donald Trump visit to UK The Trump baby rising in parliament square in London. Source: Yui Mok/PA Images

Among those seeking to organise the arrival of the Trump baby balloon to Ireland are volunteer organisations Comhlámh, Friends of the Earth Ireland and the Latin America Solidarity Centre.

Alongside other issues, they have chosen to demonstrate strongly against Trump on issues around climate change, migration and the president’s backing of Israel.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Comhlámh spokesperson Mark Malone said that organising a protest using the very visual prop of the Trump baby mirrors the president’s “cultivation of a particular persona” that disrupts the narrative and “seeks to distract”. 

Taoiseach visits United States of America Taoiseach Leo Varadkar extended an invitation to Donald Trump in March Source: Niall Carson/PA Images

Plans afoot

It was announced at the end of last month that President Trump would visit Ireland in November, as part of a visit to Europe to mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I.

“While in Europe, the President also will visit Ireland to renew the deep and historic ties between our two nations,” the White House said in a statement.

While the news was welcomed by the government, plans were immediately set afoot for protests to take place when Trump arrives in Ireland.

It was since confirmed yesterday that the visit is likely to happen on 12 or 13 November.

Earlier this week, Labour leader Brendan Howlin met with Green Party leader Eamon Ryan and they agreed to coordinate a public rally during the visit. 

9984 Labour Party_90549129 Labour leader Brendan Howlin Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Howlin said there are a number of reasons why this action is necessary, and said discussions would be held with other groups 

When Donald Trump visited the UK in July, demonstrators flew a giant balloon near the Houses of Parliament in Westminster depicting the US President as a nappy-clad baby.

Furthermore, organisers said they’d been given approval to fly the balloon by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. 

A spokesperson for Khan said the mayor “supports right to peaceful protest and understands that this can take many different forms”, and had so given the go-ahead for the blimp.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a Labour spokesperson said the party wanted a “family friendly” public rally for democracy, decency and international solidarity against Trump.

“We’ve no doubt that the creativity of the Irish people will be on display, and we would encourage as broad a peaceful demonstration as possible from across the political spectrum and civil society,” the spokesperson said.

No doubt the balloon will make it over across the Irish Sea but it shouldn’t distract from the focus on Trump’s disastrous policies and the reasons why Irish people should protest his visit.

Also in a statement to TheJournal.ie, a Green Party spokesperson said it wasn’t looking for a “monster meeting” type of event for the protest but rather a well-coordinated one.

The spokesperson said: “The last thing we want to do is play Trump’s game of inflaming passions and increasing divisions. Rather, we want to emphasise the ‘This Is Not Normal’ aspect of his presidency (and his election campaign) and that standing up for democratic norms, decency and compassion is more important than ever now.”

‘Broader discontent’ 

Comhlámh is registered charity that provides supports and services to returned development and volunteer workers. 

Malone said the organisation’s decision to back protests against Trump was an effort to reflect the views of its broader membership.

“We’re very happy to be involved with bringing it over,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for a collective organisation of discontent at how society is.”

He said that he expects there to be large numbers attending protests against Trump, but added that protests are just one way to try to effect change.

Malone said: “We’d see this protest as an opportunity… it’s about building that long-term engagement, and active citizenship.”

He singled out Palestinian solidarity, in particular, as a movement that many in Ireland get behind, which stands in contrast to the US President’s pro-Israel stance since taking office. 

“People talk about ‘special relationship’ Ireland has with the US,” he added. “This would be a continuation of that. It’s standing with the people in the US that are living under this administration.” 

Óisín Coghlan, from Friends of the Earth Ireland, told TheJournal.ie that Trump’s visit provided an opportunity “for all of us to reject the nihilistic vision that he has”. 

“The absurdity and hypocrisy of Trump’s position on climate change will be on show when he visits his Trump Hotel in Doonbeg, Co Clare,” he said.

He wants the US to be the only country outside the Paris Agreement, while at the same time he desperately wants to build a ‘big, beautiful, wall’ to prevent the rising sea eating away the dunes of his precious golf course.

Coghlan also accused the president of a “repugnant and reckless approach to everything from democratic values to migration and climate change”.

‘People get it straight away’

Trump Baby UK spokesperson Smith said that the Trump baby balloon in the UK had been successful as a “visual reference point that people could get behind”.

Smith added that issues around climate change and the treatment of migrants under the Trump administration needed to be highlighted, and this form of protest effectively made that point.

“People get it straight away,” he said. “It’s not about pointing fingers at Trump, and America. It’s about highlighting these things.”

Donald Trump visit to UK Source: PA Wire/PA Images

So are there any barriers to Trump baby flying?

Well, first it has to get here, and Smith said arrangements were underway to transport the blimp across the Irish Sea.

And, in Ireland, it is unlikely that organisers would have to acquire permission in the same manner that organisers in London sought from Sadiq Khan.

In response to a request from TheJournal.ie, the Irish Aviation Authority directed us towards a statutory instrument regulating the use of tethered balloons, airships, free balloons and kites dating back to 1999.

This is the pertinent section related to a tethered balloon such as the Trump baby: 

A balloon in captive or tethered flight, or a kite, shall not be flown within 150 metres of a cloudbase or higher than 60 metres above ground level, measured to the top of the balloon. Where it is proposed to tether a balloon of total height 45 metres or more, the Operating Standards Department of Authority shall first be advised at least 24 hours beforehand.

So, as long as it isn’t flown 60 metres in the air, or within 150 metres of cloud, it’ll be fine to use. 

In the event that the Trump baby got free, there’s a rather more ominous provision in the legislation: “Should a tethered balloon break free of its moorings, the person responsible for its operation shall immediately inform the authority of the location and time at which the balloon broke free and its estimated flight path.”

Something similar has actually happened before, when a giant inflatable minion got free and caused traffic chaos in north Dublin. 

Malone added that the logistics have yet to be ironed out in terms of coordination with other protests, and where the Trump baby would fly, but said that would be sorted out in the coming weeks. 

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Sean Murray

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