Trumped by a Snail

Eoin Dillon

How the President of the United States lost a battle with a mollusc

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to a battle for the ages. A royal rumble like no other.

In the red corner, weighing in at 107 kg; we have the King of fake tan, the Lord of alternative facts, the (unfortunately not a joke) President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump!

And in the blue corner, weighing in at 0.6 g; we have the stylish Stylommatophor, the Narrow-mouthed whorl snail, Vertigo angustior!

Vertigo Angustior. Image Credit

To set the scene for this battle of the titans we need to go back to February 2014, when Donny bought the Doonbeg hotel and golf course (now the Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland) for €8.7 million. At the time he had plans (the best plans, YUGE plans) to develop the golf course into one of the finest in Europe by investing €45 million into the course [1].

Trump International Golf Links and Hotel Ireland. Image Credit

The Doonbeg golf course is located in Co. Clare on the west coast of Ireland. It is built on a series of sand dunes which are connected to the Doughmore beach. Unfortunately for Donny he underestimated the sheer storminess of the Irish Atlantic coast, and the golf course is regularly damaged by wind erosion.

To try and counteract this Trump had plans to build a wall (surprise, surprise). Not a 1,000 mile one to keep Mexicans off the course, but rather a 2 mile, 200,000 tonne, rock sea wall to divide the sand dunes from the associated beach [2]. So, a planning proposal was put forward to the Clare County Council.

Doughmore beach. Image Credit

Now the County Council had a tough decision ahead of them. On one hand the development of this course would be great for the local economy in a rural part of Ireland, where farming, fishing and pubs make up a significant chunk of local employment, but on the other hand building a sea wall between sand dunes and its beach leads to the degradation of both habitats. If the beach was to be trapped between increasingly stormy seas and rising sea levels on one side, and a 15 foot high sea wall on the other it would come under a process known as coastal squeeze leading to heavy erosion and eventual elimination of the beach [4]. Another strong legal case against Trump’s proposal came from the E.U as the site is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (EU Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC) and it’s also the home of a rare and endangered species of snail, Donald Trump’s arch nemesis (besides himself), the narrow-mouthed whorl snail, Vertigo angustior [3].

So an Environmental Impact Statement was made and put forward to Clare County Council on the effects of the development on the ecology and environment of the area and they turned down the proposal. Trump’s plans were thwarted…. for now. Currently there are plans for two smaller sea walls to be built, which will have less of an effect on the habitats, but local surfers and environmentalists fear that when these walls inevitably fail, news ones may be proposed and built. “Sea walls beget sea walls” as Tony Lowe, director of Friends of the Irish Environment put it [2].

What’s most strange and worrying about this whole affair is that Trump believes it was the E.U’s “environmental tricks” which lead to his proposal being shot down [5]. That’s simply not true. Any project of that nature must have an Environmental Impact Statement made and put forward to the local authorities before approval can be granted, this has been in place since 1985 (Council Directive 85/337/EEC) [6], and the USA has a similar system. It wasn’t the E.U that stopped the proposal, it was the Clare County Council making an informed decision and deciding that the consequences to the environment were too much for the plan to go through.

I mean of course, not all of us can be experts on how governance and legislation work, but it’s my belief that the President of the USA should.

Image Credit




[4] Doody, J. (2004). ‘Coastal squeeze’ – an historical perspective. Journal of Coastal Conservation, 10(1), 129.




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