100,000-strong petition against Doonbeg Wall to be delivered to Trump

Published by Niall Sargent on

June 4th, 2019

A petition containing over 100,000 signatures opposing the construction of a coastal defence wall at President Donald Trump’s golf resort in Doonbeg will be delivered to the commander-in-chief tomorrow evening.

The petition, organised by the Californian conservation group Save the Waves in partnership with Irish NGOs, will be delivered to Doonbeg by the Director of Friends of the Irish Environment (FiE), Tony Lowes.

Trump International Golf Links have applied to install two coastal defence structures, totalling approximately 1km in length, in an effort to prevent further erosion of the links golf course.

FiE is strongly critical of plans to build the 38,000-tonne rock barrier and also challenged the original decision to grant planning permission for the golf resort in 1999.

“It is important that people realise that whatever about the understandable support for Trump locally, the destruction of the dune system is opposed world-wide,” Mr Lowes said.  

Sand dune systems are important for both coastal environments and human populations, and support a broad range of flora and fauna, yet, a large percentage of dunes across Europe are in an unfavourable and bad condition.

Video: Save the Waves /FiE

Let the public hear the evidence

Last week, FiE called on An Bord Pleanála to delay any decision on the wall without first holding an oral hearing on the matter.

The group said that expert views should be heard by the public who deserve to hear about any potential effects on the protected Carrowmore Dunes.

Clare County Council approved the development despite two internal scientific reports highlighting that data available at the time was not sufficient to rule out impacts on the dune system.

Last February, Peter Sweetman, Ireland’s most prolific environmental litigant secured leave to challenge the construction of the rock barrier.

He argues that the Council did not carry out a proper environmental impact assessment or appropriate assessment (AA) as required under EU law.

In an affidavit supporting his case, Mr Sweetman said that the location of the development in an environmentally sensitive area at the northern end of Doughmore Bay requires a full AA to be carried out prior to planning being granted.

In August, however, the challenge was put on hold to allow the Board to consider an appeal against Clare County Council’s decision lodged by An Taisce in January 2018.  

Golf course to blame

The charity argues that the Council failed to appropriately demonstrated that the proposed development would not adversely affect the integrity of the Doughmore Bay Special Area of Conservation.

An Taisce also argues that the justification for the proposed protection works – that point to waves, sea level rise, and storms are the leading cause of loss of the dune frontage – is “scientifically unfounded and inaccurate”.

An Taisce says that the golf course itself as the cause of the loss of sand dune habitat, noting that sea defence, stabilisation works, and golf courses expansion works are widely accepted as leading drivers of sand dune loss internationally.

In 2014, the National Parks and Wildlife Service raised concern that the golf course had “impacted negatively” on the entire sand dune system.

“This is most notable at the centre of the system where the golf course extends right out to the frontline. Given the fact that this system is retreating the golf course should have been located well back from the seaward edge,” the NPWS document states.

Photo: Save the Waves /FiE

Local opposition

Clare-based Save Doughmore Doonbeg Beach Community Group and the Lahinch chapter of the Surfrider EU Foundation are opposed to the project as part of the #NatureTrumpsWalls coalition that also includes FiE, Friends of the Earth Ireland and the Irish Surfing Association.

Lexi Keating of Surfriders said that, despite media reporting of abundant local support for the resort, “many people locally are opposed to the way Donald Trump is behaving”.

“The growing positive economic impact of surfing to the area is being ignored, as is the value of the delicate natural ecosystem that makes Doughmore so beautiful,” she said.

A Stop Trump series of protests against Mr Trump’s record on climate change and a range of social issues kicked off yesterday in the capital.

Further events are planned for Cork, Galway, Ennis and Sligo and Dublin again on Thursday evening.  A peace camp and protest will also be held at Shannon Airport where Mr Trump will be arriving.

Speaking at an event earlier today, President Michael D Higgins criticised Mr Trump’s policies on climate change as “regressive and pernicious”. As reported in The Irish Times, Mr Higgins said the US should be pushed to revise its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London