It began on Wednesday when Donald Trump met with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for a meeting at the airport. (A location choice that reaped snickers from many an Irishman and lady). Here, they spoke about the border wall, raising eyebrows when Trump compared the Irish border to a wall, much like his own Mexico-US border proposals. Trump said that he thinks ‘it’ll all work out very well for you, with your wall, your border’. Leading Varadkar to confirm that “the thing we want to avoid, of course, is a border or a wall.”
Locals in Doonbeg had hoped that they might get a visit from the president, as it was rumoured he might come into the town. Trump himself made no appearance, but the evening before, Tuesday, his two sons made the trip downtown, embarking on a Doonbeg pub crawl. Local shopkeeper Declan Meaney was there, he said it was ‘great’, and that the Trump family are ‘more than welcome in Ireland’.
Aside from the official Trump business, one of the primary outcomes of the week have manifested in the conversations sparked by Trump’s presence on the Emerald Isle. Whether between those celebrating the US president’s arrival, or those rigidly opposing it, the visit has stirred debate. Declan Meaney is of the former mindset, thinking that Trump’s visit has been ‘brilliant’ for the country.
‘It’s great for Ireland. Ireland and America are very close. There are a lot of Irish immigrants in the US, and a lot of American’s living here as well. Trump’s hotel definitely helps our economy. He has employed over 350 people in West Clare, and a lot of tourists come as well, so all the local shops and B&B’s benefit too’.
Another plus-point of Trump’s presence in West Clare mentioned by Mr Meaney, was the sea wall; which Trump had been granted planning permission to build in 2017. The sea wall has been a contentious topic in Ireland since the Trump administration first began lobbying to build it.
The 38,000-tonne sea wall is intended to prevent the Atlantic sea from corroding the land nearby Trump’s golf course. Ironically, the application for planning permission, drawn out by Trump’s own lawyers, cites ‘climate change’, as one of the main reasons for the sand dunes erosion- this, despite the fact that Donald Trump is widely quoted saying that climate change is a ‘hoax’.
Environmentalist Aisling Wheeler, of Extinction Rebellion Ireland has used this fact to back up her opinion that Mr Trump is a ‘Climate Criminal’.
‘Trump is happy to build a wall on the coast to protect his golf course from rising sea levels, but at the same time he’s actively to start his own science Advisory Council from making accurate predictions against Climate Change. He’s trying to finance the simulation of prophesised discouragement and scientific predictions by stopping those agencies from giving predictions past 2014. What I’m saying is he is knowingly putting all of our lives in danger, because he knows climate change is happening, but he doesn’t care unless it encroaches on his own industry’.
Permission to build the sea wall had been denied multiple times, and there is still an appeal active against the plans which is holding up construction. Environmentalists believe that construction of the wall along the West Clare coast will damage the local ecosystems, a fact that Martina Walsh, a nearby B&B owner, thinks is ‘ridiculous’. Ms Walsh told Sputnik that it was ‘the environmentalists causing all of the trouble’.
‘There are sea walls all over Ireland. One in Ballybunion for example. Nobody has any problems with that one, but because it’s Trump wanting to build one in West Clare they are all trying to stop it.’
There is a strange reason why the walls progress is being thwarted, which Ms Walsh, of Riverside B&B explains. ‘It’s all because of some snail, called Augustine or something. They say they can’t build the wall because the snail is endangered’.
This sounds rather bizarre, but it turns out it’s true. There is an endangered snail species which inhabits the dunes near to Trump’s resort- a tiny, narrow mouthed whorl snail called the ‘Vertigo Angustior’. Both the whorl snail, and the sand dunes at Doughmore beach, are protected under EU environmental law, posing as a big stumbling block to Trump’s sea wall plans.
The sea defence barrier is not the only thing Trump is struggling to get permission to build. Martina Walsh has mentioned plans to build a ballroom at the five-star resort. The B&B’s in the Doonbeg area ‘gain a lot’ from weddings held at the resort, ‘but without a ballroom, the weddings take place in a marquee.’ Without the weddings, Martina says ‘we wouldn’t be in business, we want Trump to get planning permission for the ballroom, but once again it’s a struggle. I’d say the environmentalists have a lot to do with it. With them, you’ll always have trouble. They’ll find something small, and then come over and highlight it.’
On Thursday on the East side of Ireland in Dublin, a protest took place, with thousands marching to oppose Trump’s visit, and his environmental policies. The Sea Wall construction was a hot topic, with Anne Mari Harrington of the campaign group ‘Futureproof Clare’, saying that the proposed plans outline Trump’s ‘hypocrisy’. Others used the demonstration to capture the attention of their own Irish government, arguing that the protest aims to show officials that more needs to be done in terms of environmental protection.