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Donald Trump is really dividing opinion in Ireland with his plans for that 'other' wall

A range of local Clare groups, including a book club, have backed the sea wall plan. Others aren’t so happy about it.

DOONBEG LOCALS ARE throwing their support behind Donald Trump’s plan to build an Atlantic wall to protect his Co Clare golf course.

However, a number of environmental groups have lodged objections to the proposal – and even some Doonbeg residents who support the project say they’re backing it partly out of hope that the billionaire doesn’t lose interest in his golf resort, which is one of the main sources of local employment.

“People come for miles around to enjoy their walk on the beach. Let’s keep it this way please,” Deirdre Hetherington of Doonbeg Book Club argues, in one of dozens of local submissions backing the project.

She adds:

We are also afraid that if the rock armour is not put in place, Donald Trump will lose interest in the resort and not invest further in this venture.

The New York businessman picked up the Doonbeg resort for a knockdown price of €15 million back in 2014.

On a much-publicised visit the same year he said he planned to “at least double or triple” that investment in years to come, and promised to work closely with environmental authorities on the redevelopment of the Greg Norman-designed course, which was badly damaged in winter storms over recent years.

Trump in golf conservation deal Trump arrives in Shannon in 2014. Source: Niall Carson

Since his entry to the race for the White House, however, the real estate developer has dismissed the resort as “small potatoes”  and said he’s happy for his adult children to run it and “have fun with it”.

In a planning application for the sea wall to Clare County Council earlier this year, his consultants warned that a ‘do nothing’ scenario would bring the “viability of the entire resort and its potential closure into question”.

All against…

The Trump-owned TIGL Ireland Enterprise Limited wants to build a 2.8km berm on a sand dune at Carrowmore Bay to protect its investment against coastal erosion and storm damage.

Some conservationists have opposed the project as the Carrowmore dunes are designated a Special Area of Conservation, and in submissions lodged with the council ahead of yesterday’s deadline groups like the Green Party and Friends of the Irish Environment again argued that the wall should not be built.

Trump in golf conservation deal Source: Niall Carson

Arguing that the plans pose a “real threat to the dune system” Greens leader Eamon Ryan attached separate notes from two ecologists supporting his objection, adding:

My central contention is that interfering with the beach in the manner proposed will change the dynamic process within which dunes are constantly being formed in the normal interaction between sand and flora systems.

Similarly Friends of the Irish Environment maintains that the barrier ”would interfere with the natural circulation of sediment and organic matter”.

Amongst the other objections from groups and individuals, the Irish Surfing Association, which represents clubs all over the country, contends “not only will the visual amenity be severely damaged but also the surfing environment will be degraded”.

surf Source: Irish Surfing

Local backing

While a mix of objections and submissions of support for the project have been lodged with the Council from all over the country, most letters backing the plan come from community groups in the area.

The Doonbeg Tidy Towns Committee, for instance, says it “strongly supports” the proposed barrier and wishes to “put on record its support”. 

“It would appear there is a precedence of constructing a barrier along the coastline as barriers already exist at several other golf courses in the West Clare coastline,” the group adds.

The Clare County Executive of the Irish Farmers’ Association also wants the wall built, arguing “the sand hills that back on to the beach have been under threat for a number of years”.

Doonbeg Community Development voices its ”wholehearted support” for the project, observing that “tourism is the lifeblood of our smaller economies in West Clare”.

While Philippa Siegrist of the Doonbeg International Jazz Festival Committee says the coastal village has enduring significant damage in recent storms, adding:

The village suffered very badly during the storms of 2014 – personally my own house was flooded out by the sea – and we are all acutely aware how much we need sea defences, and this proposal will help to protect the area from the sea.

jazz Source: Doonbeg Jazz Festival Committee

‘Blackmail’  

One of the longer submissions objecting to the development comes from John V Lennon of John Paul Lennon & Co Consulting Engineers, which has offices in Cork and New York.

The reasons given are “necessarily exhaustive” Lennon explains, before going on to list a range of environmental concerns.

Things get a little more personal on page five of the eight page submission, as he argues:

“I note from a report in the Irish Independent of the 1st March 2016, that the applicant is a Mr Donald Trump from Manhattan, New York City.

“Mr Trump, through the medium of his technical advisors, has threatened to close the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel if permission is not granted for the proposed development.

I consider that to be an attempt by Mr Trump to bully and blackmail Clare Co Council.

The submission ends by referring to “the sycophantic, kow-towing” reception Trump received on his Irish visit in 2014, noting that he arrived on “his private Boeing 757 jet aeroplane which is vulgarly emblazoned with the commercial logo of Trump International”.

trump1 Source: John Paul Lennon & Co

Hot potato issue

Trump made those “small potatoes” comments in the context of one of his rambling rally speeches earlier this year. He criticised US companies for moving to Ireland for tax reasons in the same campaign appearance in South Carolina.

Despite his apparent waning interest in the course, however, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee plans to visit Doonbeg next week as part of a trip that will also see him check in on his golf clubs in Scotland.

An umbrella protest group made up of political parties and campaign groups, including the AAA-PBP, the Greens and the Irish Anti War Movement, is planning protests in Dublin and Ennis to coincide with his visit here.

Read: Newly formed anti-Trump umbrella group confirms protests in Dublin and Clare >

Read: Trump says Obama might ‘get the Orlando shooting better than anybody knows’ >

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