Friday 28 October 2016

Donald Trump's plans for sea wall at Doonbeg branded 'monstrous and unsustainable'

Ed Carty

Published 14/06/2016 | 14:51

HOPEFUL: Donal Trump pictured at Doonbeg in west Clare. Photo: Kip Carroll
HOPEFUL: Donal Trump pictured at Doonbeg in west Clare. Photo: Kip Carroll

One of Donald Trump's plans for a wall - this time to keep out the sea - has been branded naive, monstrous and unsustainable.

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Surfers and environmentalists in Ireland have teamed up in the fight against the would-be US president's bid for a 2.8km rock barrier in erosion-hit dunes beside his renowned Doonbeg golf links in Co Clare.

Read more: Doonbeg is just 'small potatoes', says Trump

On the other side of the battle are many of the 250 full-time and seasonal workers who earn a living at the hotel resort, golfers and local businesses, farmers and clubs which fear the return of traditional emigration of young people.

Mr Trump's plan is to build a 200,000 tonne sea defence or revetment on Doughmore beach on the edge of the links where severe winter storms have wiped out metres of beach in recent years.

Read more: Trump on attack against Obama with veiled claim he supports Islamic extremism

The Irish Surfing Association urged Mr Trump to make a "managed retreat".

Zoe Lally, of the organisation, said the tycoon should review options such as soft engineering and "if ultimately required, a programme of managed retreat rather than the dumping of hundreds of thousands tonnes of stone in such a delicate and important environment".

"The reduction in the amenity to other users of the beach should not be accepted to compensate poor planning and site research by the golf club and/or their agents," she said.

Read more: Varadkar: Trump's comments on Orlando 'crass and tasteless'

About one third of the 100 plus submissions to the planning application oppose the works.

The 10 million euro limestone rock armour is designed to be up to 13 feet high but surfers, beach users and other water sports enthusiasts are worried it will completely alter the dynamics of the waves and make it dangerous to be in the water at high tide.

Mr Trump has said he is not a great believer in man-made climate change but cited global warming and rising seas as a reason for needing the wall.

Fintan Kelly, of An Taisce, Ireland's national trust, said the proposed solution was "inappropriate, completely unsustainable and outdated".

"The conservation of sand dunes in the Netherlands, USA and UK have proven themselves to be more cost effective than hard coastal protection works and are supplying valued biodiversity and ecosystem services to local communities," he said.

A decision is due on July 4 - US Independence Day - a spokesman for Clare County Council said, but the decision can be appealed and an oral hearing can also be requested.

Eamon Ryan, Green Party leader, who is joining protests over Mr Trump's visit to Ireland later this month, claimed the course was originally designed to change with erosion.

One letter purporting to be on behalf of people living in Doughmore, Carrowmore, Cloonmore, Clohanes, Acres, Caherfeenick North, West Cree and Doonbeg said: "Some people are just objecting to Trump."

One of the lengthiest objections was from the West Coast Surf Club.

Local surfers Dave Flynn and Ollie O'Flaherty said: "The proposal that a solid defensive line such as rock armour can be inserted into a dynamic system such as the Carrowmore Dunes to protect one side... is naive and unprecedented.

"By trying to halt the process with a rigid imposition, the very thing that is being protected will be damaged."

Mr Trump's advisers have raised concerns that refusal to allow the sea wall will throw the future of Doonbeg into jeopardy.

Many submissions noted that similar work on other courses in Ireland has not been given the same publicity or controversy while others warned science is against the Doonbeg wall plan.

The Doonbeg bridge, book, ladies football and GAA clubs, jazz festival and community development all back the plan as a way of sustaining the local community.

New York property tycoon Mr Trump is the presumptive US Republican presidential nominee.

He is visiting Ireland at the end of next week, a trip which is expected to clash with the arrival of US vice president Joe Biden.

Mr Trump paid about €15m for Doonbeg and vowed to invest up to €45m.

A renowned beauty spot, the dunes are one of the few surviving systems on Ireland's west coast and are protected by strict environmental concerns for a microscopic snail, the narrow-mouth whorl snail, or vertigo angustior, which has survived since the Ice Age.

 Among other submissions, Robert Roche, from Ardnacrusha, Clare, who has holidayed in the west of the county since childhood, said: "As an island nation ... we can't build any more land."

 Sean Fitzgerald, a golfer and surfer from Newbridge, Co Kildare, said the wall will ultimately kill the dunes and leave Doonbeg a flat piece of land.

Aoife O'Donovan, Timoleague, Co Cork, objected to the wall and said: "It is immoral to even consider anything other than the preservation of this natural dune system."

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