Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Ireland sends Trump a strong message on climate change over Doonbeg golf course sea wall

As he touches down on emerald isle, US president will hear message that is overwhelmingly green

Ben Kelly
Thursday 06 June 2019 10:55 BST
President Donald Tump and Melania arrive at Shannon Airport on Air Force Two on the first day of his visit to the Republic of Ireland

President Donald Trump is visiting Ireland this week, where protests against his stance on climate change and the environment are expected.

The US president has just finished his three day state visit to the UK, where Prince Charles is said to have spoken to him passionately about his environmental concerns. But in an interview aired on Wednesday morning, Trump – a notorious climate change denier, repeated his claims that the issue facing the world is merely “extreme weather” which “changes both ways".

Trump’s visit to Ireland is not an official one, although he did meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar briefly at Shannon Airport. The visit is primarily for the president to stop off at his own golf resort at Doonbeg, in County Clare, where his ideological war on the environment takes something of a physical form.

A sprawling, luxury property, Doonbeg sits on the west coast of Ireland, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Trump opposed the construction of a wind farm near the site in 2014, and sent a celebratory tweet when the local council denied planning permission. There was a mild controversy in 2018 when it emerged he had lobbied Varadkar – then the Irish tourism minister – over the issue.

Then in 2017, the Trump organisation was granted permission to build a 38,000 tonne sea wall to protect the resort from sand dunes which were facing coastal erosion. Perhaps ironically, given Trump's stance on climate change, his own lawyers included in their application that climate change was partially behind the coastal erosion.

But in a familiar situation, the wall was met with strong opposition from protesters who say it would be damaging to the local environment, with an appeal against the planning permission still holding up construction.

An Bord Pleanála – an independent, statutory body – who are considering the appeal, told The Independent: “The planning appeal is still under consideration. A decision on the appeal is unlikely to be made in the near future.”

But the absence of a wall won’t be Trump’s only reminder that Ireland’s green credentials run deep. Despite this visit being more low key than the UK state visit, widespread protests focused on climate change are expected.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan is quoted in The Irish Times calling for a “respectful, peaceful but forceful and strong” message to be sent to the US president.

“I think fundamentally most Irish people disagree with the course he’s taking the world,” Ryan said. “His disregard for climate change affects us all; his breaking down of long established global rules around how we cooperate affects us all; his treatment of refugees in other countries, do we just ignore that? Do we just say business is more important than that and stay silent? No.”

Donald Trump on his discussion with Prince Charles on climate change, and whether he believes in it

Criticism of Trump’s stance on climate change goes right to the very top. A speech from Irish president Michael D Higgins on Tuesday was a naked rebuke of US policy on the issue under the current administration.

In what could be deemed a rare political message, the Irish head of state said that the US should be urged “to reconsider its regressive and pernicious decision to leave the global Paris Agreement.”

Ireland felt ripples of the green wave which swept across Europe last month, with a marked increase in support for the Green Party in both European and local elections. Leo Varadkar addressed results directly on Twitter, saying the government had “got the message” from the public.

He added: “We’ll publish the Climate Action Plan shortly. We’re investing in renewable energy, greener public transport & electrical vehicles. But the public want us to do more faster, and that will spur us on so we can meet our 2030 targets.”

Whether Varadkar passes on such concerns to the leader of the free world or not, Trump is likely to hear the green message from Ireland loud and clear.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in