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Irish village gears up to party for local hero Trump

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DOONBEG (IRELAND)  - On a windswept coastline in western Ireland, a sleepy hamlet is preparing one hell of an inauguration party on January 20 when billionaire tycoon and local investor Donald Trump becomes US president.

At the pub on Doonbeg's main street landlord Tommy Tubridy has developed a knack for writing the initials "DT" in the pints of Guinness in a remote community where Trump is -- mostly -- celebrated.


On the outskirts of the village, Trump owns a luxury golf course, where he has invested millions of euros (dollars), creating hundreds of jobs in a part of Ireland hit hard by austerity.

"He is very popular in the local area ?- 99.9 percent of the people would be for Trump here," Tubridy said as he polished glasses and showed off his skills writing in the foam of Ireland's classic tipple.

In Irish Gaelic, Doonbeg means "Small Fortress" and in many ways this remote but beautiful area buffeted by the Atlantic Ocean has become Trump?s Irish fiefdom.

His resort employs up to 300 people directly in the busy summer season and provides a welcome boost for shops, bars and restaurants in the village and beyond.

Well-heeled guests can expect a rough journey on the narrow, bumpy roads leading to the resort, along with patchy broadband and mobile coverage.

The poor infrastructure has always been a formidable barrier to economic progress in the area and locals hailed Trump?s decision in February 2014 to purchase the ailing property on the outskirts of the village.

It is now known as Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland.

- Resort is 'small potatoes' -


John O?Dea, Chairman of Doonbeg Community Development, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to promote commerce in the village, said it was "very difficult" to attract new business and Trump's arrival was considered "brilliant news".

"It is hugely important to all of County Clare, not just to Doonbeg," he said.

During the presidential election campaign Trump referred to the resort as "small potatoes."

He bought the property for a knockdown price at the tail-end of Ireland's real-estate crash, and has vowed to invest two or three times that amount.

In May, the Irish Times quoted his son Eric as saying the Trumps had invested "north of $50 to 60 million" in Doonbeg, including the purchase price, since February 2014 and were ready to spend more.

Trump's election raised hopes among many locals of promised upgrades and additions, including a swimming pool and a conference centre, although his statement that he will be leaving his businesses has created uncertainty.

The mood in the rest of Ireland, a country with historic links to the United States, is far darker.

Following the election in November, Pat Leahy, political correspondent at The Irish Times, captured the sombre feeling.

"The world woke up Wednesday a darker, scarier, more menacing place," he wrote.

"First Brexit, now Trump. The world is changing fast in ways we will almost certainly regret: There is no good side to this."

- 'Put Doonbeg on the map' -


Even in Doonbeg, however, his tenure has created tensions, mainly over a proposed 2.8-kilometre (1.5-mile) -long, 4.5-metre (13.1-feet) -high coastal wall on a public beach adjoining his property to protect the golf course from being eroded by winter storms.

Trump's critics pointed out the irony that his planning application contained a reference to the effects of climate change on the coastline -- even though the tycoon is on record as being a climate sceptic.

After months of battle with environmentalists and planning authorities, he was forced to concede defeat in early December in favour of a more modest barrier, involving steel piles driving into the ground, with a protective barrier of limestome boulders at the base.

Joe Russell, the resort?s general manager told AFP the main reason was a question of time.

"We do not have time to spare -- we need to get something done quickly and hopefully in getting approval with this proposal, we will achieve this objective," he said.

Fergal Smith, a regular surfer on the beach who campaigned against the wall, said the decision was a "victory for common sense", describing the original plan as "ludicrous".

"Playing God is a serious thing to start doing," he said.

The reversal is unlikely to dampen the enthusiasm for the celebrations to mark the swearing-in of the local hero and his running mate, Mike Pence, whose great-grandparents happen to come from Doonbeg and who still has distant relations among the 900 population.

The village is hoping the inauguration will encourage people to visit and extend the festive season into late January, according to Tubridy's daughter, Suzanne, who helps him run the business.

"This has really put Doonbeg on the map. It will be the place to be that weekend, that's for sure," she said.

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Muslim Global: Irish village gears up to party for local hero Trump
Irish village gears up to party for local hero Trump
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