Tuesday 27 September 2016

Falling out with local community is par for the course with Trump

With his Scottish love affair in tatters, the billionaire can only hope Irish eyes continue to smile

Kathy Donaghy

Published 03/04/2016 | 02:30

Scottish spat: Farmer John Forbes, star of the You've Been Trumped documentary about the billionaire’s fights with locals.
Scottish spat: Farmer John Forbes, star of the You've Been Trumped documentary about the billionaire’s fights with locals.
Donald Trump

It had all the ingredients of a modern rags-to-riches tale: the self-made billionaire returns to the humble pastoral origins of his forbears where the locals roll out the red carpet and speak his name in reverential tones.

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The reality of Donald Trump's relationship with his beloved Scotland, where his mother Mary-Ann MacLeod was born, is different. It has been a falling out of love with the local boy-done-good of massive proportions.

It had all started out so well. Almost a decade ago, Trump pledged a massive £700m for the development of two golf courses in Scotland.

"I think this land is special. I think Scotland is special and I wanted to do something special for my mother," he explained back in 2008. But while Scotland initially showed him the love in return, controversy began to dog his project at Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeenshire.

In 2010, award-winning documentary You've Been Trumped told the David Vs Goliath tale of Trump's battle with local residents on the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire.

The documentary followed local farmer and fisherman Michael Forbes' ongoing struggle to keep hold of his family's 23-acre farm amid mounting pressure to sell up. In a public vote in 2012, Forbes won Scotsman of the Year in the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland awards alongside Olympic and Paralympic heroes. It was the beginning of the end for the Scotland-Trump love affair.

last year, the billionaire suffered another blow to his ambitious plans, when the UK's highest court rejected his bid to stop a wind farm being built near his golf links in Aberdeenshire.

The special relationship with Scotland soured even further when MPs in the British Parliament debated a citizen petition to ban Trump from entering the UK because of his proposal for Muslims to be prevented from entering the US.

To add insult to injury, last Christmas a Scottish university which had awarded him the honorary degree in recognition of his achievements as an entrepreneur and businessman revoked it. And Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, also removed him from his role as a business ambassador following his controversial statement about Muslims.

In 2014, the property tycoon cast his net across the Irish Sea adding to his luxury golfing portfolio with the purchase of Doonbeg golf resort in Co Clare for ¤8.7m.

In May of that year, Trump flew into Shannon Airport to visit his new acquisition and was given what has been described as the most awkward and strangest Irish welcome ever seen.

As the billionaire stepped out of his private jet, he was met on the red carpet by three young woman dressed in full evening attire playing the harp, the fiddle and singing to him. In unseasonably chilly conditions, the musicians had to compete with the plane's engines to be heard while inside Finance Minister Michael Noonan joined local dignitaries to greet Doonbeg's new owner.

The minister later had to defend his participation in the welcoming party for Trump, pointing out that he had no connection with the tycoon.

"Would there be criticism if it was an IDA factory that was going into West Clare with 300 jobs.

''This man says he's going to spend at least double the purchase price for investment down there," Noonan said.

However, a year after he bought it, the US mogul's plans for Doonbeg, now known as Trump International Golf Links, Ireland, had their first run in with trouble.

Initial work to repair four holes damaged by Atlantic storms on the 450-acre course was stopped after concerns were raised about a microscopic snail.

The narrow-mouth whorl snail is a protected species and strict environmental concerns meant the works had to be halted.

After talks with the Trump organisation and technical experts, Clare County Council and the National Parks and Wildlife Service announced they had agreed to a programme of works to remediate the golf course.

But now it appears that the storms blowing in from the Atlantic are causing the Trump development even more headaches. Consultants acting for the billionaire have warned that if he doesn't secure planning permission for a 200,000 tonne "wall" of rock armour to protect his Doonbeg resort, it could close.

The warning came in new plans lodged by Trump International Golf Links and Hotel with Clare County Council for the construction of a ¤10m, 2.8 km-long wall of limestone rock armour on Doughmore Beach at the golf resort. The decision on the application is due later this month.

Meanwhile, across that same stormy Atlantic, it appears Trump himself has bigger fish to fry as he tries to achieve what seemed unimaginable a few months ago.

Anyone who has observed the bull-headed way he went about getting his way in Scotland would be foolish to dismiss his chances.

So will he be welcomed back to West Clare sometime in the next four years as President of the United States of America?

Only time will tell if the red carpet and musicians will be laid on for him next time.

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