‘It will create a bit of excitement’: Doonbeg prepares for Donald Trump visit next month

Former US president Donald Trump looks set to visit his golf club and hotel in Doonbeg, Co Clare, at the end of August.

It would be his first visit to Ireland since 2019 when he held the office of president and his first in a personal capacity since 2015. It is understood that a security operation is under way ahead of his arrival as all former presidents and their spouses are entitled to receive lifetime secret service protection.

Doonbeg resident and local business owner Rita McInerney said Eric Trump, one of the former president’s sons, visited the property a few months ago. Locals also noted the presence of the secret service in the town earlier this year, she told the Brendan O’Connor show on RTÉ Radio 1 on Saturday.

Eric Trump, who is the third child of the ex-president, was a regular visitor to Doonbeg before the pandemic put a halt to international travel, Ms McInerney said.

“He [Eric] was here a couple of weeks ago and, the usual, he visited some of the pubs in Doonbeg. They don’t drink themselves but he was certainly out and about.”

Batting away criticism of Mr Trump’s investment in Doonbeg, Ms McInerney stressed that the resort has always been a great employer locally.

“The resort was initiated by the local development company and Shannon Development 25 years ago to create local employment. We are a small rural community on the west coast of Ireland and we saw it as an opportunity to create employment by developing a golf course in our locality. It is has been so good for west Clare.

“We have a great working relationship with the owners of Doonbeg golf club. Doonbeg golf club employs about 300 people in the summertime and it goes down to about 100 in the winter.”

Residents in Doonbeg are grateful that there is a special rate available to locals who want to play in the golf club, she added. Many residents also supported plans for coastal protection works at Trump’s Doonbeg property which were rejected by An Bord Pleanála in 2020.

She says they are a very “active and proud community” in Doonbeg and that they can feel a bit “defensive and vilified” in relation to the Trump connections to the town.

“If you saw some of the social media around the time of the visit [of Donald Trump] in 2019 there was a lot of vitriol towards us. Like many communities around the country, you are just looking to survive and are trying to do your best.”

Of the ex-president, Ms McInerney said she would “disagree with many of his politics” but he was democratically elected in 2016 and “you have to respect that”.

“People who come [to the resort] were members pre-Trump and continue to be members and they love coming to West Clare — the remoteness and the quality of the golf course.”

Trump’s planned visit — expected to last two or three days — “won’t make a huge difference” to Doonbeg, she added. But “it will create a bit of excitement for a few days and then it will be back to business”.

Doonbeg golf course opened in July 2002 and was purchased by Trump Hotels in February 2014.

The five-star resort, spread over 400 acres and along 2½ miles of coast, had been put in to receivership in January 2014 on foot of debts associated with properties on the site.

The hotel consists of 218 hotel suites, an expansive spa and several restaurants. Filings with the Companies Office indicated that Mr Trump paid €8.7 million for the luxurious resort.

Speaking to The Irish Times in May 2014, Trump said four years earlier he had sent a team of architects to take a look at the hotel.

“I said at the time, ’I wonder if I will be able to buy it’, and I actually tried buying it and I wasn’t able to.”

However, he said when an opportunity presented itself he was only too happy to purchase the resort.

“It was one of those things. I closed the deal in less than five hours. There are not a lot of people who would be able to do that.”