Donald Trump: Making Doonbeg great again

A village on the west coast of Ireland will be celebrating Trump’s inauguration – and its own economic revival.

DOONBEG - Ireland
The members' clubhouse at Doonbeg Golf Club on August 18, 2010, in County Clare, Ireland [David Cannon/Getty Images]

Doonbeg is a village on the picturesque Atlantic coast of Ireland. It is more than 5,000km from Washington. But as Donald Trump is  sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, Doonbeg will be the scene of a celebration.

Many of the residents of the village in west County Clare are big supporters of the billionaire businessman who they believe “put the village back on the map” in 2014 when he bought a five-star hotel and turned it into the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel.

According to The Irish Times, the property was sold for an estimated 15 million euros ($16m) in 2014 and features 218 rooms, a spa and restaurants. For a village struggling to deal with the consequences of the global economic crisis, the new resort was a lifeline.

It employs roughly 255 local people, a “huge source of employment” considering the village has a population of around 700, says Gabriel Keating, a County Clare councillor. 

“It is a major source of employment in this area, mostly in farming and tourism. The resort is at the heart of business in the West Clare council,” he says. “For someone to come to Doonbeg and buy a golf course and employ this many people is like an industry.”

Tommy Tubridy is the owner of the local pub, and a big Trump supporter. He had the chance to meet the President-elect’s son, Eric, when he was in the village and describes him as a “lovely person, very down to earth”.

“We are delighted that Trump is the US president, he is the right president. We did a big party when he was elected, and now we are set for big celebrations. It’s fantastic,” he says.

Locals, like Tubridy, see Trump’s election as an opportunity for the village to attract further investment.

Keating expects that such investments – and the opportunities they could bring with them – will come soon. “[Eric Trump] plans to build a conference centre. This can bring people from all over the world, including American companies,” the councilor says.

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Building a wall … a tiny wall

But not everyone in Doonbeg is a fan. One of Trump’s proposals has divided local opinion. The proposal? To build a wall. A wall that would protect his resort from coastal erosion caused by the strong Atlantic winds. 

In the original proposal to build the protective structure along Doughmore Beach, Trump’s representatives explained that the wall’s purpose would be to protect the golf course from “global warming and its effects”.

It was a shift from Trump’s usual stance on climate change, which he has called a “hoax”, arguing that “nobody knows if it’s real”. He has also chosen a renowned climate-change denier, Scott Pruitt, to head the Environmental Protection Agency under his administration.

“This is all about money,” says Tony Lowes, a member of the Friends of the Irish Movement who opposes the wall project. “It’s outrageous. The conservation objectives for this area, published In 2014, say that no structure preventing the circulation of sand can be built. It’s illegal.”

Lowes maintains that the wall could not prevent coastal erosion and would eventually fossilise the dunes and “kill an entire ecosystem”.

“They have to retreat, to reshape, to reform. The golf course owns sufficient land inland to expand in that direction. It should be working in harmony with nature,” he says.

But the building of a wall found widespread support in Doonbeg, as Trump threatened to close down the resort if it wasn’t approved.

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An Irish never misses a party. People are really excited about Trump's inauguration

by Councilor Keating

Trump began a legal fight with the local authorities over the project, but eventually agreed in December to build a smaller version of the barrier. 

Keating says that he is confident that planning permission for a wall “tall enough to protect the shore” will be approved by March.

“No matter what you do, even if you are building a house, your neighbour can object to it. There are objectors everywhere,” says Keating. “Once this goes ahead, the conference centre goes ahead and things will being to happen.”

So, while he might be a highly controversial president to many, most residents of Doonbeg see Trump as a symbol of economic growth and opportunity for a village that they say was previously “depressed, with few attractions”. 

“An Irish never misses a party. People are really excited about Trump’s inauguration,” says Keating. “I will be attending for sure. I wouldn’t miss it.”

Source: Al Jazeera