AHEAD of Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States on Friday, Doonbeg parish priest Fr Joe Haugh has offered his unequivocial backing to the New York-based billionaire.
In a joint interview with The Times [UK] and German newspaper Bild, US President-elect Trump said Doonbeg was a “magnificent property” but added that “now, I couldn’t care less about it”.
He made his comment in the context of his frustrations with EU bureaucracy. “They were using environmental tricks to stop a project from being built. I found it to be a very unpleasant experience. To get the approvals from the EU would have taken years. I don’t think that’s good for a country like Ireland,” he commented.
However, Fr Haugh insists that Mr Trump’s comments were not demeaning towards his business in West Clare.
“Doonbeg is now out of his agenda. He has to concentrate on the USA. That’s what he means. He’s not downgrading Doonbeg or anything. He has handed the business over to his sons, Eric and Don,” Fr Haugh said, adding that the provision of employment at the resort is very significant.
“He is providing 240 jobs here in the summer. That’s as good as Moneypoint. That’s why we’re so fond him,” he retorted.
When it was put to Fr Haugh that Mr Trump’s words could be interpreted as damning towards Doonbeg, he offered a personal take on the comments.
“That’s the way Americans talk. They think big and they talk big. That’s Americans. Give him a chance. They put different interpretations on things than we do. That’s it I’d say. We’ll give him a chance and see what he’s going to do.”
Fr Haugh is adamant that if President Trump visited Ireland during his tenure, he would be welcomed in Doonbeg.
“He’d be most welcome here in Doonbeg. Most welcome and in West Clare as well,” he said, insisting that anybody opposing a visit should give the new president time to settle in.
“Just give him a chance and let him get going. Judge not and you shall not be judged. They’ll have to give him time. He’s going to be President of America and they’ll have to realise that,” he added.
Fr Haugh will be watching the inauguration live on TV on Friday. “I will of course,” he confirmed.
Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council Bill Chambers, who is from the neighbouring parish of Cooraclare, also feels that Mr Trump’s apparently disparaging comments towards Doonbeg, were directed at the EU.
“Maybe that could have been taken out of context. I’d say he’s a bit frustrated with EU laws as regards the protection of the golf course. In all fairness, there is an awful lot of red tape coming from Europe. There are a lot of rules and regulations. It doesn’t make sense that we can’t preserve our own coastline. If the sea breaks through, it could finish up in Cree or down in Cooraclare. Once you come inside the golf course, all the ground is under sea level after that. I think he’s doing a great job to tackle this and I think he should have been let go through. It’s a problem from a European point of view,” Councillor Chambers said.
He also maintained that Mr Trump’s comments were not critical of Clare County Council’s planning regulations. “He wasn’t really critical of the council. He was more critical of the European set-up. The council has to go through a process. He didn’t signal out the council in my opinion.”
Councillor Chambers believes Irish critics of Trump are not relying on the Doonbeg resort for a job. “The people who have different views on him are not depending on a job in Doonbeg. This is the thing that we have to look at. There are 200-plus employed there and if closed down in the morning, it would be an awful blow to West Clare. I wouldn’t be for any negative things about him. We don’t know the ins and outs of American politics. It’s completely different and that was always my stand on it. At the end of the day, he’s paying the wages.”
As regards a possible visit to Doonbeg by the new president, which his son Eric Trump said in May 2016 would happen, Councillor Chambers said it would be up to the elected council members.
“That’s a thing that would have to be discussed with Clare County Council. I couldn’t do it myself without consultation with the whole council. If the council felt it was the right thing to do, I’d have to give it serious consideration. I’d have to think about it and take the feelings of everyone into it and make a considered response,” Councillor Chambers replied.
Meanwhile, Doonbeg publican Tommy Tubridy told The Clare Champion that there will be no formal celebration of President Trump’s inauguration in the village. “We had the celebrations when he got elected and we’re looking forward to working with his sons Eric and Don. There is nothing planned in the village,” he confirmed.
By Peter O’Connell