Former US President Donald Trump is due to visit his golf club and hotel in Doonbeg, Co Clare, in late 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 clear that a security operation is underway for his arrival as all former presidents and their spouses have the right receive lifelong protection from the Secret Service.
Doonbeg resident and local entrepreneur Rita McInerney said Eric Trump, one of the former president’s sons, visited the property a few months ago. Locals also noticed the secret service presence in the city earlier this year, she told Brendan O’Connor’s show on RTÉ Radio 1 on Saturday.
Eric Trump, the ex-president’s third child, was a regular visitor to Doonbeg before the pandemic put an end to international travel, Ms McInerney said.
“He [Eric] was here a few weeks ago and, as usual, frequented some pubs in Doonbeg. They don’t drink themselves, but he was definitely on the road.”
Waving away criticism of Mr Trump’s investment in Doonbeg, Ms McInerney emphasized that the resort has always been a great employer locally.
“The resort was initiated 25 years ago by the local development company and Shannon Development to create local employment opportunities. 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 place. It’s 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 summer and about 100 in the winter.”
Residents in Doonbeg are grateful that a special rate is available for locals who want to play at the golf club, she added. Many residents also supported Trump’s plans for coastal protection works on the Doonbeg property, which were rejected by An Bord Pleanála in 2020.
She says they are a very “active and proud community” in Doonbeg and can feel a little “defensive and vilified” in relation to Trump’s connections to the city.
“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 to us. Like many communities across the country, you’re just looking to survive and trying to do your best.
Of the ex-president, Ms McInerney said she “would disagree with a lot of his politics”, but he was democratically elected in 2016 and “you have to respect that”.
“People Who Come” [to the resort] were members before Trump and remain members and they love coming to West Clare – the remoteness and the quality of the golf course.”
Trump’s planned visit — which is expected to last two or three days — “will not make a huge difference” to Doonbeg, she added. But “it will cause some excitement for a few days and then it will be back to work”.
The Doonbeg Golf Course opened in July 2002 and was purchased by Trump Hotels in February 2014.
Spread across 400 acres and along 2½ miles of shore, the five-star resort was placed under receivership in January 2014 over debts related to property on the site.
The hotel consists of 218 hotel suites, an extensive spa and various restaurants. Filings with the Companies Office indicated that Mr. Trump paid $8.7 million for the luxury resort.
In May 2014, Trump told The Irish Times that he had sent a team of architects to look at the hotel four years earlier.
“I said at the time, ‘I wonder if I’ll be able to buy it,’ and I really tried to buy it, but I couldn’t.”
However, he said that whenever an opportunity presented itself, he was only too happy to buy the resort.
“It was one of those things. I closed the deal in less than five hours. Not many people could do that.”