'Our coast is being destroyed by the force of the Atlantic Ocean'

Presidential visit: Suckler farmer John Flanagan, whose holding is located at Doughmore, close to the Trump-owned Doonbeg Golf Links in Clare. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Presidential visit: Suckler farmer John Flanagan, whose holding is located at Doughmore, close to the Trump-owned Doonbeg Golf Links in Clare. Photo: Steve Humphreys
John Flanagan
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

'It would've been silly to cut silage last week or even consider spreading slurry with the downpours we got, with or without Trump's visit."

That's according to Doonbeg suckler farmer John Flanagan on news last week that farmers in the area were advised not to carry out major farm-work operations for the duration of President Donald Trump's visit to the scenic village in West Clare.

John inherited the 30ac farm which borders the Trump International golf resort in 2000, one year after the original owners began constructing the renowned golf links and hotel.

John says the farmers whose land bounds the resort have had a great relationship with Trump International since it was bought in 2014, unlike farmers in Scotland who have had a multitude of issues with the US President's luxury hotel chain. John adds that he even got to meet Eric Trump last week during the family's visit.

John Flanagan
John Flanagan

"Eric and Donald Jr came down to the local pubs in Doonbeg last week. They talked to everyone. I went over to Eric and thanked him for supporting the village and their investment in Doonbeg.

"He said he really appreciated our support, especially with the rock armour they want to build to protect the golf course."

The rock armour that Eric was referring to is the company's plans to build a 38,000 tonne coastal barrier at the resort to prevent further erosion to the golf links.

The plan is supported by locals, but is currently pending a decision from An Bord Pleanala and a petition against it has received over 100,000 signatures.

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"Our coast is being destroyed by the force of the Atlantic Ocean and if we don't do something now, it could end up costing millions more to do in 20 years' time," explains John who is also Chair of Doonbeg Community Development.

"My farm is below sea level here because of the force of the ocean most days. Something has to be done. Environmentalists are shouting that it'll ruin the natural landscape, but they're not providing any other solution and are just whingeing."

John also owns 30ac of land 12km down the road in Kilkee and also rents another 10ac nearby to rear his 35 suckler cows and weanlings, which are made of Limousins, Charolais and Simmentals.

Due to the fragmented nature of the farm, he calves the cows in July and hopes to be able to do his second cut of silage in the first week of August.

"It'll be a busy few weeks, but it's so much easier for me to calve in July than get up at 4.30 in the morning in the winter with the wind and rain howling.

"All I have to do is look out the window at my calving box."

Beef Fund

John is adamant that ordinary suckler and beef farmers who "produce the highest quality animals" should be the only recipients of the €100m Beef Fund announced by the EU Commission.

"We're getting knocked left, right and centre. Prices have been slashed since Brexit, but factories are using that as an excuse.

"I've been to all the Beef Plan and IFA meetings under the sun and everyone thinks the same thing - the farmers have to be the number one priority for this fund."

John thinks that EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan's recent comments that suckler farmers should be paid to plant trees and to reduce numbers is "unacceptable", especially if it will just result in the expansion of dairy numbers.

"Carbon footprint of farming is a big issue. Every farmer from Donegal to Cork knows that. Sure we had the sun beating down on us in April and all had umbrellas up during the first week of June, but you can't blame farmers.

"Sure if I was to reduce my herd by 10 cows, what's to stop a dairy farmer increasing their herd by 20?

"I'm practically in the ocean here. There's no way I could plant trees either."

John lives on the farm with his parents Sean and Kathleen, who have taken a back seat from farming in recent years, but enjoy watching the farm develop.

Outside of farming, John is currently working on getting funding for a community housing project in Doonbeg and is hoping to increase the amount of coastal walks in the area to promote tourism.

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