Predictably, Trump’s visit to London has been met with as much protestation as his last. By all accounts the same will occur when Trump touches down in Ireland late this Wednesday evening, but with one noticeable exception.
Doonbeg, a fairly typical Irish village of pubs and churches situated on the coast of County Clare, is being prepped for Trump’s visit by the locals as much as by the US Secret Service.
Trump will fly directly from Britain to Shannon Airport, where he will be met by Leo Varadkar. He is expected to take a day trip to France for the D-Day commemorations on Thursday, before flying back to Ireland and playing a round of golf at The Lodge, the golf resort in Doonbeg which he bought for €15 million in 2014.
Not only has golf been a key factor of Trump’s presidency, the excessive hours he has spent on various courses at the expense of the American taxpayer being a much discussed issue, but it is the reason the town of Doonbeg are offering Trump such an enthusiastic welcome.
On top of the original purchase of The Lodge, there is also a further €10 million planned by Trump International, to preserve the area against coastal erosion, and €38 million to build new developments which would roughly double the size of the resort. There are currently 300 people employed by the resort, and one local resident estimated that it facilitated €8 million for the area economy through not only pay but money generated for local business. These are no small sums for a part of the country largely ignored by central government.
It should be considered that Trump’s business practices have previously made him a pariah to the people of Ayleshire in Scotland, for the manner in which he went about buying the land for his resort there. Further, the people of Doonbeg are ambivalent to his politics and the policies of his administration. But they are also pleased to see some money flowing into their own pockets and a bit of interest generated for the local area which, it must be said, is one of the most stunning parts of the world.
Protests aside, it is anticipated that media footage of Trump’s visit will be an effective advertisement for the scenery and surroundings, the likes of which Fáilte Ireland could not dream of funding.
Recent elections have not shown Clare to be any great exception to the national rule; there is no reason to suspect significant sympathy with the sort of politics that Trump avows. Not only was there a strong showing for the ‘Yes’ votes in recent liberalizing referendums on equal marriage, abortion, and divorce, but also for President Michael D. Higgins reelection last year.
Trump’s visit to Doonbeg should be closely watched as an example of how good will is given to anyone who fills the void which rural communities have long lived with. This has implications for any country which has seen a surge in support for populism, and for the far right.
This should also be carefully observed in Northern Ireland, where the gap between east and west is just as stark as it is in the south, if not more so. This trend is most clearly demonstrated by viewing a side-by-side comparison of a northern rail map from the time of partition versus now.
In 1921 a person would never have found themselves more than five miles away from a railway station. Now there are 54 stations in the north, 12 of which are outside Antrim, and only two of which are in nationalist areas. It is difficult not to view this within the lasting legacy of sectarianism.
Anyone familiar with Translink will recognise how poor, to the point of bizarre, are the services it offers for rural areas. For example, the only method of getting from Newry to Enniskillen is via Belfast, a forty-mile cross-country dander in the opposite direction.
There are also questions to be aimed at the DUP, as well as their Conservative partners, when one considers their recent proposal to build a bridge to Scotland. The claim of my last article that they are a single issue party, frantically focused on the union, is vindicated by the fact that they would build a bridge to Scotland before a road to Fermanagh.