Donald Trump is facing dark times as his legal woes mount, but his star has not dimmed in Doonbeg.
The divisive ex-president is not loved for his politics in all corners of west Clare, but locals are grateful to Trump the businessman, whose investment locally cannot be underestimated.
Anthony Morrissey, a local painter, admits he finds it hard to get his head around Trump’s character.
“I can’t fathom him at all. I can’t fathom his politics but running a business is a different thing.
“Him personally, he seems to court controversy, and that transfers onto the business, and that’s negative for the village then.
“I have my opinions on him, but that is American politics.
“You would hope this time when he comes, it won’t bring negativity, but after recent controversy with the raid of his house, it’s bad timing.
“But, look, he has done great things for the locality both directly and indirectly.
“You’re talking about a massive amount of jobs in a very rural place.
“Locally, in fairness, he provides great employment. I have family employed there.”
He said without Trump’s investment in west Clare, they would be much worse off. “And a lot of houses here are selling. House prices have gone up a good bit here.
“The golf course is picking up a good bit. The business has really picked up there.
“They are doing some big tournaments and that will draw huge crowds to the village again.”
Every local person the Irish Independent spoke with was steadfastly united behind Trump’s efforts to build a sea wall to prevent further coastal erosion eating into his golf course.
Trump International has lodged a planning application with Clare County Council to build the two-mile, 38,000-tonne, 15ft-high rock wall that would shelter the dunes from the adjacent Doughmore beach.
The contentious plan said the works were required as “a matter of urgency” to protect three holes at the Trump resort.
The plans were rejected by An Bord Pleanála in 2020.
Among the reasons cited was to preserve a minuscule protected snail.
The Vertigo angustior, a 2mm narrow-mouth whorl snail, is believed to have its origins in the Ice Age and is one of three land snails listed for protection under annex II of the EU Habitats Directive.
The tiny shelled gastropod emerged as a stumbling block to Trump. He has not been allowed to build the wall.
Anthony Morrissey wonders if The Donald was treated unfairly in this regard.
“If you look at it this way, the biggest problem we have here is coastal erosion, and he only wants to rectify it, but he has literally hit a wall.
“If it was another person who owned Doonbeg, would they let him have the planning? If there isn’t something done and the dunes are washed away, it will be a disaster.
“Every time it comes up environmentalists are coming in carrying out studies on snails and whatever else.
“The same snail was found above in Donegal after all that, and it was only supposed to be here in west Clare.”
He said much of the opposition was generated by political opposition to Trump, and it came from outside the village. “You won’t find too many locals who have anything against him, and if you do, it’s just to create a bit of banter in the pub.
“Anybody you meet here that’s giving out about him is not from around here.
“He just came in here and bought a business and let it run. He has good management up there.”
Kit Smalley (71), a retired chef who lives along the main street in Doonbeg, said he and everyone else in the village will welcome Trump.
“When he came last time, I made a sign and put it in my window. It read, ‘Pink Floyd built a wall. So, why can’t Trump?’” He acknowledges the former US president gets bad press but shrugs as he says, “I’m British: so did Maggie.”
“He has brought an awful lot to this community. He probably did more good here than he did over there,” he laughs. “I’m not into politics anyway. I just can’t be bothered with it. I just want to see people getting on in life.”
Publican Tommy Tubridy, who owns the iconic Tubridy’s pub on the main street, sighs wearily when he realises another journalist is asking him a question he’s been asked many times before. “Does the media never get sick of printing the same story? The hotel is fantastic. I’d say it has brought 300 jobs to this area.
“There are helicopters flying in and out of there every day. We are packed out here every Wednesday night because of the golf in Doonbeg.”
A girl working in a cafe thinks there is needless negativity around Trump’s contribution to the area. “Growing up, every transition year student did work experience there at some point because a lot of other places wouldn’t take them,” she said. “There is nowhere else to go. The majority of my friends are working there now. They say it’s great craic.”
Her friend agreed. “Political opinions aside, he has done great things for Doonbeg,” she said.
Patrick Hynes, from Miltown Malbay, lived in New York for 41 years, returning to his native west Clare three years ago. He met Trump a few times in Manhattan and found him “very nice”.
“I met him twice in the Trump Towers. My friend – the Lord have mercy on him, he is dead now – he used to be the doorman there, and I would pick him up on my way home from work.
“Trump was grand, he was nice, actually, there was no problem with him whatsoever. He seemed very nice to me anyhow.
“He’s a great man, and he has done a lot. I know there are issues as regards him as a politician, but it is hard to suit everybody.
“He has brought great industry to this area, and he employs a lot of people in the hotel. You have to always think of the positive things.
“There is nobody perfect in life.”