Trump and Doonbeg - ‘Environmental tricks’ and EU bureaucracy

16th January 2017
News Item

Apparent recent comments from US President-elect Donald Trump would seem an admission of defeat regarding proposed construction of the coastal defence wall at Doonbeg Resort in Co. Clare.

'I couldn’t care less about it',

Mr. Trump has stated.

In what he bemoans an ‘unpleasant experience’, failed first attempts to gain approval for a 2.8km, 4.5m high seawall have caused him to say

‘...forget it, I’m not gonna build it.’

However, despite appearances, the matter is far from over, given the fact that, currently awaiting approval by Clare County Council, is a subsequent application, in which plans for a seawall have been replaced by plans to install two lengths of sheet piling over distances of about 609m and 256m, at the northern and southern end of Doughmore bay respectively.

White Strand Beach and the Carrowmore dunes, a beautiful area of coastline, have for many years been popular with surfers and holiday-makers alike. Not only do they provide recreational opportunities for both visitors and locals alike, but have also provided generations of protection to the adjoining land from flooding. While it has previously been put forward by Trump International Golf Links that planned coastal works in the area would ultimately save the dunes and protect the golf course, this is not the case. Due to inappropriate design and siting of the golf course itself, the dunes are being prevented from retreating.

In what could be interpreted as a further lament of the supposed ‘ills’ of the EU, Mr. Trump has cited planning difficulties at Doonbeg as a ‘a classic example of EU bureaucracy’. He has criticised the use of what he calls ‘environmental tricks’ to stop the project being built. However, these so-called ‘environmental tricks’ referred to by Mr. Trump are in fact a clear example of the vital mechanism, enshrined in national law, which allows for public consultation and the rights of Irish citizens (and more broadly EU citizens) to protect their environment, providing a forum for the voicing of legitimate concerns.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, RTE Radio 1, this morning, Department of Education Minister, Richard Bruton, when asked his opinion on Mr. Trump’s views, came out in defence of such environmental protections. He highlighted the necessity of those measures in order ‘to protect Ireland and its fantastic heritage and assets’, stating he stood ‘foursquare’ behind them. He added, ‘they are enforced fairly without fear or favour by the local authority and An Bord Pleanala where there is a dispute’.

The Carrowmore dunes are a protected habitat under the Nature 2000 as a Special Area of Conservation due to the important dune systems and wildlife contained within it and in the surrounding area. The use of mechanisms, such as those provided on regional, national and EU levels are vital to ensure environmental protection for areas such as these.

The original proposed plans for Doonbeg would have had (and further proposals may still have) the potential to irreversibly damage the dune system through dune starvation, preventing natural adaptation and the accretion of sand that has been occurring for centuries. This could also have a dramatic impact on the surrounding landscape, with the potential to affect adjacent habitats such as wetlands and lead to more issues down the line such as displaced flooding elsewhere. The proposal to relocate two holes of the course may seem a viable solution, yet the overall revised proposals still have the potential to negatively affect the area.

Other countries have found viable ways to protect their coasts without damaging their ecosystems. The Dutch are working towards protecting and restoring sand dune systems, having recognised this approach as more effective, in both physical and monetary terms, at protecting the coast than hard coastal protection works [Note 1 & Note 2]. With the right management and investment, better alternatives can be found than those so far put forward for Doonbeg.

The application to Clare County Council remains open for objections until 3rd February.

Note:

  1. National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) (2014b) Carrowmore Dunes SAC Conservation Objectives Supporting Document: Marine Habitats, [online] available: http://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/002250%20Carrowmore%20Dunes%20SAC%20Marine%20Supporting%20Doc%20V1.pdf

  2. Arens, S. M. & Geelen, L. H. W. T. (2006) Dune landscape rejuvenation by intended destabilisation in the amsterdam water supply dunes. Journal of Coastal Research, pp. 22: 1094-1107.