Friday 21 September 2018

Trump made another call over Doonbeg wind farm but Irish group declined opportunity to collaborate

The Doonbeg resort owned by Donald Trump
The Doonbeg resort owned by Donald Trump
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

DONALD Trump made another call to Ireland in a bid to shore up support for his objections to proposals for a wind farm near his luxury Clare golf course - but his offer of help was "politely refused".

The businessman called Irish environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment in 2014 offering to assist them in drafting their objection to the plans for the wind farm.

The revelation comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is in the firing line over a story he told at the Speaker's Lunch on Capitol Hill about his own interaction with Trump over the proposals.

Mr Varadkar said Trump personally called his office four years ago to ask for his assistance.

Mr Varadkar said he initially thought the call was a "piss-take" when his assistant told him Mr Trump was on the phone.

At the time, Mr Varadkar was the Minister for Transport, Sport and Tourism.

The businessman told him he was concerned that a wind farm would take away from Doonbeg's landscape and affect his golf business.

Speaking at a St Patrick’s Day lunch, Mr Varadkar said he “endeavoured to do" what he could and contacted Clare County Council after the call.

Mr Varadkar said the council ultimately turned down the planning application for the wind farm.

"The president has very kindly given me credit for that but it would probably have been declined anyway," Mr Varadkar said.

Director of Friends of the Irish Environment, Tony Lowes, told Independent.ie that he also received an "unexpected call" from the former reality star.

"He said they had been looking into our work and saw that we'd had some success and he is very opposed to a wind farm that was going to be built near his newly purchased golf course," Mr Lowes said.

The lobby group were objecting to the wind farm due to its proposed location and the risks to the freshwater pearl mussel population in the area - the reason the plans were eventually turned down by An Bord Pleanala.

Mr Lowes said the specifics of the help that Trump was offering were not outlined during the call but he believed the help would come in the form of additional technical reports to back the group's objections - reports that are expensive to carry out.

But ultimately the organisation declined the offer, stating that they wanted no concerns raised over their independence.

"We aren't against wind farms we were against this one as it was in a very sensitive area," Mr Lowes said.

Mr Lowes said Mr Varadkar - like anyone else - is entitled to make representations but should have done so in a public manner.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar moved to clarify the Taoiseach's remarks, insisting there was nothing inappropriate about what he had done.

"As Minister for Tourism, Leo Varadkar received a call from Donald Trump regarding a wind farm proposal near Doonbeg, which is a significant tourism asset on the west coast," he said.

"It's normal for ministers to seek information on planning applications when issues are raised by citizens, businesses or investors.

"This matter has been mentioned publicly on many occasions by the Taoiseach. It was not a court case or judicial matter."

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