Will Trump’s flirtations with Clare resort turn sour, asks Caroline O’Doherty
DONALD Jr spoke with trademark Trump brashness when he described how one of the most recognisable names in international real estate came to own a piece of west Clare.
Recalling how the Doonbeg Hotel and Golf Resort had appealed to him when he spotted it while on the lookout for bargain buys in Ireland two years ago, and then hearing just 10 days ago that it was now in receivership, he went to his dad, Donald Sr, and said: “I know you’ve never seen it but...”
His father’s reply was constructed of the kind of certainty gifted to people who rarely have to explain themselves: “Go get it.”
Those three little words sparked the first frisson of love between a small community fearful of losing their livelihood and the flamboyant billionaire who told them everything was going to be OK.
However, without ruining the romance of the Valentine’s weekend, what should be on everyone’s lips — rather than a puckered-up pout — is the question of whether this will be a relationship between equals or quickly become a one-sided affair.
Trump is speculated to have paid €15m for Doonbeg — a tenth of what it cost to build the landmark development in the early noughties.
For that, he gets an impressive complex, just 12 years old, with elegant five-star accommodation, a handsome clubhouse, stunning golf links, and a glorious beach-side location alternately lapped and lashed by the Atlantic, that all combined have wowed travel writers and won tourism awards.
He says he’s going to put more money into it — Donald Jr, eldest of his five children (by three different wives), mentioned a swimming pool and ballroom as possible additional features this week, stressing it was all about getting more people through the doors.
However even with the extra investment needed to turn Doonbeg into the attraction it deserves to be, and the fact it has yet to turn a profit, the Trumps can be pleased with their purchase. As Donald Jr put it this week: “I think we bought it well.”
What Doonbeg and the surrounding community gets in return is job security for the approximately 100 employees who work there in quiet times — a number that swells to some 240 in peak periods.
The spin-offs to other local accommodation, restaurant, transport, and tour providers will also be saved, and the dread that the complex might become an abandoned eyesore has been allayed.
These aren’t just the rash promises of a suitor in the first flush of lust — Donald Jr gave assurances his father was no commitment-phobe. “It’s a work in progress,” he said, referring to the resort, not the relationship. “We will be tweaking it for the next 20 years.”
However, as with almost every new romance, there’s an ex-lover in the background with a different tale to tell. In this case, it’s a piece of east Scotland alternately lapped and lashed by the North Sea.
Trump opened the Menie Golf Links and Resort at Balmedie near Aberdeen just 18 months ago, declaring it “the greatest in the world” and promising to further improve and progress it.
That was before this week, when he lost his legal challenge to a windfarm development 3km away, which he said would damage tourism and breach his human rights by spoiling his view.
Apparently, the affront made him forget how the Scottish authorities had bent over backwards to accommodate him and given him special permission to build on an ecologically important site.
He promptly abandoned plans for further improvements to Menie, declared his love for Doonbeg instead, took Menie’s very name ‘Trump International Golf Links’, stamped it on Doonbeg, and, in a parting shot, declared windfarms in Scotland to be the equivalent of Pan Am 103.
Pan Am 103, as the people of Scotland all too painfully remember, was the plane blown up over the village of Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 people on the flight and on the ground.
Not surprisingly, his comments haven’t gone down well there — or in other countries where the victims hailed from. Arguably, the US, which lost 178 citizens in the terrorist attack, should be most outraged, but they seem to be used to Trump’s bluster stateside.
That could be due to the fact that, in recent years, Trump has created, and come through unscathed, controversies over his redneck views on race, gun control, same-sex marriage, women, international diplomatic relations, and universal healthcare.
But then, he has also come through bankruptcy, near-bankruptcy, two divorces, a countless amount of complicated and audacious business deals, and a lifetime of having to defend his bizarre, dead badger hairstyle — and he has yet to lose an ounce of his considerable zeal for life.
He won’t take a refusal lightly, but then the people of Clare are no pushovers either — the long-running legal dispute over public right of way to the Doonbeg dunes during the resort’s initial construction proved that — so if a contentious issue does arise while he’s spinning gold out of the Atlantic breeze, it could become very interesting.
Of course, lovers’ tiffs are normal in most relationships — it’s irreconcilable differences everyone will want to avoid.
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