OVER €6 million was spent on staff costs at Trump International last year, while it employed an average of 213 people.
While President Trump is very unpopular in Ireland, the Doonbeg business is now perhaps the most significant employer in West Clare, a region which has suffered from major economic disadvantage for many years.
Today, West Clare is almost totally devoid of large industry, with Government agencies having no track record of bringing foreign direct investment to the region.
However the recently filed accounts show that Trump International was employing an average of 213 people during the 12 months of 2017. It is understood that this number rises to around 300 during the summer.
The accounts show that wages and salaries for the year came to €5,435,373, up from €4,719,000 in 2016. Social welfare costs were €576,146 for the year, up from €542,238 in 2016, giving total staff cost of €6,011,519.
Although it was loss making in 2017, the Directors Report filed with the accounts predicts a return to profitability this year.
While the impact on West Clare has already been substantial, there are plans for the construction of a ballroom/function room building, a leisure centre and 53 dwellings for short term tourist accommodation. The resort would be suitable to host conferences if it goes ahead.
Should this happen it can only mean increased business for the Doonbeg facility, with a major knock on effect for other local businesses, who are already feeling the benefit of the Trump investment.
Tommy Tubridy runs a bar and restaurant in Doonbeg and said that the Trump investment has meant people can make a life for themselves in the area. “There’s a spin off for everybody here. You see so many people coming back here and living in Doonbeg. There are at least three or four houses going up in our parish and in some way all of them are working directly or indirectly for the Doonbeg resort.”
He says that guests in the resort are helped to spend time visiting other local businesses. “The service they give here to the village is fantastic, people can’t get over the way they treat their customers, bringing them up and down to the village to the restaurant or the shop or the pub.”
Looking to the future, Donal O’Sullivan, who has an accountancy practice in Kilrush and is part of the local Chamber of Commerce, feels that if Trump continues to develop the resort there will be a much greater benefit. “If he gets the swimming pool and the conference centre, there could actually be conferences back in Doonbeg in the middle of the winter. Imagine the economic benefit for the whole of West Clare, for Shannon Airport, taxi drivers, bars, restaurants, for everybody.”
The fact that it is owned by a figure as contentious as Trump shouldn’t take away from the fact that the development is crucial to West Clare, he feels. “Because its Donald Trump that owns it doesn’t mean people should rail against it, they should rail for it, because its of massive economic benefit to the whole of West Clare. The Trump family have been well received in Doonbeg, his two sons have been there and anyone who has met them has said they are very courteous and very nice.”
Trump International wishes to install rock armour to protect the facility and he says there is a strong case for allowing it to proceed. “It isn’t an unreasonable request. All you have to do is walk the beach in Lahinch and look at the amount of rock armour up there. Walk the beach in Ballybunnion and look at the amount of rock armour.
“They’re talking about the Special Area of Conservation and these famous snails. But at the moment the snails are being washed out to sea because the sand is being eroded away. The Special Area of Conservation is being washed away into the sea.”
Mr O’Sullivan said that Trump International is probably the biggest employer in the whole of West Clare, and that tourism is vital to stemming the region’s decline. “There are so many people leaving West Clare, so many young people. If you want to try and bring them back you need to provide jobs and tourism is one area that can help places like West Clare.”
In the Director’s Report for TIGL Ireland Enterprises Ltd it states that significant investment was made in 2017, which should help the business become profitable. “The Company spent €1.4 million (2016 €3.1 million) on capital improvements to improve the golf course and property. The directors are confident that in the forthcoming year, the continued redevelopment will contribute positively to an increase in turnover and the return of operating profits in 2018.”
Regarding overall results for the year, it said that while there were was an operating loss, the company’s net assets increased during the year. “The group made an operating loss before depreciation of €330,030 (2016 €610,117). The loss for the year after providing for depreciation amounted to €1,773,817 (2016 €2,011,2400). At the end of the year the group has assets of €22,889,110 (2016 €22,675,618) and liabilities of €2,487,267 (2016 €2,600,442). The net assets of the company have increased by €326,667.”
Regarding the future for the business, it said, “The directors are continuing to upgrade various facilities at the Trump International Hotel and Golf Links, Doonbeg, Ireland. In 2018 the company is lodging a planning application for a revised master plan to include conference and leisure facilities, which if approved will have a positive impact on top line revenues, enhance the customer experience and have a positive effect on trading results for the entity.”
Kilkee businessman Donal Hayes says that Trump International is absolutely critical for West Clare, with it delivering a level of employment that no one else will. “Without him you’d have no employment in West Clare. Without the hotel you have no employment in West Clare, as simple as that. Who’s going to come along and build a factory employing 200 odd people in West Clare and spend that kind of money in wages? It’s not going to happen.”
He said that when he looks out of his shop window in Kilkee he can count at least 20 buildings that families or businesses have left since he opened in 1984. “In that time Kilkee has matured, what were young families back when I started have matured and moved on, but they aren’t coming back. When my kids leave and when I retire or die there is no guarantee anyone will be there taking over, that’s the way West Clare is gone. You need everything you can get to provide jobs. The only jobs I can see coming to West Clare are tourism jobs and the Trump resort is one of the major places.”