Doon dust up- the Battle of the Dunes looms
Locals tell environmental protestors to stay away as Donald visits stunning resort
Protesters planning to descend on Donal Trump’s west of Ireland golf resort when he visits this month have been warned: ‘You are not welcome’
The Green Party say they will stage protest at the visit of the American Presidential hopeful Trump later this month to his Clare resort.
And an Irish environmental group has vowed to take the tycoon through the Irish courts to stop his 2.8 kilometre rock barrier in front of the five-star coastal retreat – even if he is president.
The odds-on Republican Party presidential hopeful caused a stir that week when he tweeted his intention to visit his ‘magnificent resort fronting on the Atlantic Ocean.’
His son Eric and his wife Lara said his father will return to his Irish resort many times as President of the United States.
Local shopkeeper Murt McInerney said yesterday that protestors planning to disrupt Trump’s visit would not be welcome in Doonbeg.
He said: ‘These protesters will not be welcome. They can stay out of this place.
The funny thing about the planning laws is that somebody from Timbuktu can object to a development here.
There are people from all over the country objecting to what goes on here. There was fellow down in Kerry objecting because of some wretched snail when the gold course was developing.
‘Nobody has ever seen this microscopic snail. It’s a load of nonsense. I think a law should be introduced that nobody outside of a radius of 10 or 20 miles should be allowed to object to a development.’
Trump is one of the divisive presidential candidates in history, but Mr. McInerney said the people living in Doonbeg are not interested in his politics.
‘Generally speaking, American politics is none of our business’, said the Director of Doonbeg Development, which originally dreamed up the golf course.
‘There is no other employer around here that would employ 240 people.’
He said all the locals were treated to Trump-style hospitality when the businessman’s son Eric arrived in May to open the revamped course.
‘Eric and his wife had a wonderful reception for about 300 of us. They spent a huge amount on it’, he said.
It is estimated the Trumps have spent close to €50m, including the purchase price, on the resort.
Murt said the locals are delighted Trump is proposing to spend millions on coastal defences in front of his property, as it prevents many locals from flooding.
Environmentalists had in the past expressed concerns about the survival of the microscopic whorl snail in the dunes behind the resort, but Tony Lowe, from the Friends of the Irish Environment, said their group has objected to Trump’s coastal protection because of the fears of the dunes disappearing.
‘He is certainly not welcome as far as we are concerned. What he is proposing is completely unacceptable.
We will certainly support the protest.’
He said the conservation objectives published by the National Parks and Wildlife Service make Trump’s coastal barrier illegal.
He said: ‘It says that there can be no construction anywhere on the dune system. That is the law.’
And he said they will take their fight right through the Irish Courts, even if Donal Trump is in the Oval Office.
‘If Enda Kenny decided to put a swimming pool in his backyard and the neighbours were annoyed, I don’t think the fact that he is Taoiseach counts… planning goes with the land, not the owner.’
He says the decision on whether to bring Trump to the High court will probably occur in five or six months.
‘The feeling is this will go to the Council, to An Bord Pleanala and then probably end up in the High Court. We’ve been before and we are not reluctant to go again’.
6 June, 2016
The Implementation Committee for the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context has found that Britain has not met its obligations to discuss the impact of a nuclear accident withthe affected public in other countries, including Ireland. The findings are expected to be confirmed at the next plenary session in Minsk in June 2017.
The Irish NGO Friends of the Irish Environment made a complaint to the Implementation Committee over the UK's failure to consult the public in Ireland about the potential trans-boundary implications of the construction and operation of the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear reactor.
The first new nuclear station proposed to be constructed in the UK since 1995, Hinkley C is a 3.2GW nuclear power plant composed of two reactors. The power plant will generate 7% of UK's electricity if constructed. The UK position is that “the likely impacts determined through a thorough EIA do not extend beyond the county of Somerset and the Severn Estuary”.
The UN’s Espoo Convention, named for the Finnish town in which it was signed in 1991, requires governments to provide an opportunity to the public in trans-boundary areas likely to be affected by a project to participate in the relevant Environmental Impact Assessment procedures regarding proposed activities. It must ensure that the opportunity provided to the public of potentially affected Parties is ‘equivalent to that provided to the public of the Party of origin’.
FIE’s complaint cited the Irish Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) Report published in May 2013 which acknowledged that in the event of an accident, Irish agriculture could be affected. ‘Food controls and agricultural protective measures would be required if any of these accidents occurred to ensure that food on sale in Ireland was safe to eat. In the case of the most severe accident scenario examined in the study, short-term measures such as sheltering would also be required’, the RPII Report concluded.
German Bundestag member Sylvia Kotting-Uhl also complained to the Implementation Committee. In October 2013, the Implementation Committee asked a number of affected countries for their view on whether "the proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C is likely to cause transboundary impact” on their territories.
Norway, the Netherlands and Austria expressed views that a major incident could have an effect in those countries. Ireland's response in November 2013 did not answer the question asked by the Committee. It referred to the RPII report but did not mention the transboundary impacts RPII predicted would be experienced in Ireland in the event of a major release of radioactive material.
The Committee’s recommendations include a request for ‘the United Kingdom to enter into discussions with possibly affected Parties, including Parties that cannot exclude a significant adverse transboundary impact from the activity at Hinkley Point C, in order to agree on whether notification is useful at the current stage for this proposed activity’.
Friends of the Irish Environment calls on the Government
1 - to explain why the Department of the Environment’s response in 2013 didn’t reflect the RPII's views in their response to the Espoo Implementation Committee and
2 - to confirm that they will take up the Committee's recommendations to discuss at this stage the value of notifying the Irish public of the environmental impact of the proposed nuclear power plant.
The issue is to be raised at the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) spring seminar this Friday 10th June in the Council Chamber, Fingal County Hall, Swords.
Contact: David Healy 087 6178852
Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland study
2013 Letter seeking Ireland’s views:
FIE PRESS RELEASE
23 MAY 2016
The Department of Agriculture has informed FIE that all forestry felling work is being halted at Castleforbes Estate, County Longford until the end of the season protecting birds and wildlife on 1 September, 2016.
After a complaint from Friends of the Irish Environment on 4th April 2016 to the Forest Service, operations were ceased on site but were resumed 10 days later after an official inspection.
FIE then wrote to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Rural Affairs, and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphries, TD, the Minister in charge of the Parks and Wildlife Service [NPWS], accusing the Department of using ‘double standards’, highlighting the recent judgement by Judge Seamus Hughes of the Longford District Court who fined two men €250 for destroying vegetation during the closed period imposed to protect birds and other wildlife between March 1 and August 31.
'Farmers are rightly required to go to considerable lengths to ensure they do not cut hedgerows during the closed period, even to incurring additional cost for machinery equipped to deal with wet land, while the Department's own Forest Service issued two felling licenses at the historic Castleforbes Estate in County Longford without any restrictions for nature conservation.’
Documents released to FIE from the NPWS under Access to Information on the Environment show that the original 2015 licence was for thinning only for ‘firewood’ with a condition prohibiting the felling of oaks. However, a Report drafted by the NPWS in response a Parliamentary Question by James Bannon, TD on 2 December 2015 revealed that ‘most beech’, ‘some ash’, and ‘some oaks’ were in fact removed, stating ‘most oaks trees selected were between 60 and 80 years old, with the occasional older tree.’ The Deputy never received the promised response to his Parliamentary Question.
Local NPWS staff only became aware of new licenses when felling began in February of this year and were not consulted during the license application process by the NPWS administration. The NPWS District Conservation Officer wrote that he ‘totally agreed’ with the local staff who felt ‘undermined and embarrassed by the manner in which this application was handled by the NPWS’. He urged the Regional Manager to contact the Forest Service ‘in the hope that we can moderate the damage and deflect the bad publicity that will certainly be directed at us.’
A request from the local NPWS staff for permission to stop the felling was denied by the Regional Manager of NPWS, who stated that ‘NPWS cannot stop such works and that is in the remit of the Forest Service.’
As work continued further into the restricted season, NPWS issued a recommendation under Regulation 4 of the Forestry Consent and Assessment Regulations to the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service requesting that a condition be placed on the licence preventing work during the restricted season. The letter was sent 24 April 2016. It was resent on 8 May as work had not ceased.
In his response to FIE’s letters, the Minister’s Private Secretary wrote on 18 May, 2016 that the Forest Service did not require an assessment before granting the licences because it was determined at the screening stage ‘that the proposed work would not have a significant effect on either the Special Area of Conservation under the Habitats Directive or the Special Protection Area for Birds.
NPWS made a full ecological survey a condition of the licenses but the records show that this was dropped for ‘lack or resources’
While the NPWS made an ecological survey a condition for the original licence, the files show that this was never undertaken due to a ‘lack of resources’.
The documents released from the NPWS show that the Parks and Wildlife Service have confirmed two breeding buzzards, suspected breeding woodpeckers, bats, badgers, pine martens, breeding red squirrels, breeding ravens and many other species of breeding countryside birds (black cap, mistel thrush, etc,)’ with ‘merlin recorded on the bog adjoining the woodland.’
The letter of 18 May from the Minister for Agriculture informs the group that it has been agreed on the ground between the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service that felling will be suspended until September.
Tony Lowes of FIE said that while ‘the files show the owners of the Estate wish to reinstate the woodland to as close to primeval woodland as possible, under the guise of ‘Continuous Forest Cover’ and ‘Low Impact Silivicutural System’, these unique woodlands are actually being stripped of specimen redwoods, oaks, and ash of the finest quality and the wildlife decimated through a breakdown in the nature conservation system in Ireland.’
‘Ireland is a repeat offender when it comes to failure to assess impact on SACS. The EU Court of Justice has ruled against Ireland before on very similar issues and the Commission will be very unimpressed to see the law flouted and the environment blatantly damaged in this way.’
FIE PRESS RELEASE
1 June, 2016
ATT: Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Waterford
Commission begins EU Court proceedings over Irish nature designations
Government commitments to end second investigation
As the European Commission begins infringement proceedings against Ireland for failing to complete the designation requirements for its Special Areas of Conservation, it proposes to close another investigation into the protection of the fresh water pearl mussel on the basis of commitments given by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Coillte Teo., the State Forestry Board.
LEGAL PROCEEDINGS INITIATED
The European Commission has issued a formal ‘Reasoned Opinion’ to Ireland for failing to adopt the necessary conservation measures required for the country’s Special Areas of Conservation. A reasoned Opinion opens infringement proceedings against a member state and is the basis on which the Commission grounds its case before the European Court of Justice.
The proceedings allege that Ireland has failed to complete the national legal protective regime for 400 of the SACs State’s within 6 years of their selection and for failing to set detailed site specific objectives for 300 of the sites. The case was initiated in February 2015 and the Reasoned Opinion issued in April 2016. Ireland has two months to provide a response which will be considered before a decision may be taken to proceed to the European Court of Justice. A ruling against Ireland by the European Court may lead to daily fines if the ecological requirements are not then met.
CLOSURE OF INVESTIGATION INTO FRESH WATER PEARL MUSSEL
The information about the case was contained in a 27 May 2016 letter to the environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment [FIE] proposing the closure of an investigation undertaken on the basis of complaints from the organisation from 2012 – 2015 over the protection of the fresh water pearl mussel in Ireland.
The examples documented by the NGO included forestry operations by Coillte Teo on the Glaskeen River in County Donegal, Mayo County Council’s repair of a bridge at Delphi on the Bundoragh River, the proposed N59 Maam Cross to Oughterard Road in Connemara, and felling along the river Lickey in Co. Waterford.
The Commission letter proposes the closure of the investigations on the basis of commitments made by the Irish authorities and the State Forestry Board, Coillte Teo. in a series of formal letters and meetings, teleconferencing and ‘numerous informal correspondence’.
HALT TO 28 COILLTE FORESTRY OPERATIONS
At the outset of the investigation into the operations in Glaskeelan River catchment which was ‘considerably damaged’ by their forestry operations, the Commission’s initial enquiry in 2013 led to Coillte Teo. ordering an immediate halt to 28 ongoing harvesting operations where the fresh water pearl mussel was present.
DONEGAL & WATERFORD
The investigation concluded that the use of a river as a roadway for heavy machinery ‘considerably damaged the habitat’ through ‘high levels of silt, mud, and run off to water courses’. An internal audit of compliance and the ongoing Commission investigations resulted in changes to Coillte’s procedures for risk assessment, planning training, and auditing which the Commission understands are now being implemented across Ireland. Coillte expressed regret for incident and reported that ‘disciplinary action was taken against several Coillte employees’.
In combination with concerns arising from a report over Coillte felling along the River Lickey in 2014 which found ‘long term and continuing deterioration of habitat quality’, Coillte now has 4 Quality assessors to monitor compliance across its forestry operations and has agreed to engage a hydrologist with an awareness of the habits requirements of the fresh water pearl mussel. Progress in protecting the River Lickey’s population will be monitored on a quarterly basis.
The County Mayo case resulted in a commitment by the Minister for Arts Heritage and Gaeltacht ‘strengthen its own advisory Service’. A major flood event occurred swamping the working area where the local authority had tried to divert the Bundoragh River to repair the Delphi Bridge in spite of warnings from experts. The protective dam collapsed, releasing a considerable amount of sub-standard sand from the sand bags onto the only site in Ireland where the fresh water pearl mussel had favourable conservation status. As result of the incident, the Department has also agreed to develop a better coordination with An Bord Pleanala over projects they are considering. To prevent further erosion by grazing and trampling of sheep, the river banks are being fenced and other river bank protection measures will be put in place.
The proposed section of the N59 from Maam Cross to Oughterard in Connemara if it proceeds will now be subject to strict conditions regarding NPWS approval of Method Statements a number of Method Statements designed to protect the fresh water pearl mussle ‘and this has resulted in no operations being undertaken so far.
Tony Lowes of FIE said that ‘The changes brought about by our complaints show the potential for pro-active nature conservation in Ireland. However, a recent case where felling took place in a privately owned Castleforbes Estate in County Longford during the bird nesting season revealed that the ecological survey which would have undoubtedly prevent this was dropped as a condition of the license by the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht for ‘lack of resources’.
‘The examples we provided to the Commission show a systemic failure to fund and protect nature conservation in our Special Areas of Conservation. Ireland must make good on these legal requirements and provide sufficient resources to the National Parks and Wildlife Service to complete the designation process and protect these areas - or ultimately face far costlier daily fines as well.’
Contact: Tony Lowes 353 27 74771 /353 87 2176316
Letter of 27 May, 2016 to Friends of the Irish Environment
EU PRESS RELEASE
April Infringement Package
Nature: Commission calls for IRELAND to step up nature protection measures
The European Commission requests Ireland to protect habitats and species by introducing an appropriate level of protection for areas designated under the Natura 2000 network. In line with theHabitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC), Member States have had six years to designate protected areas under their national law - technically, turning them from "Sites of Community Interest" (SCIs) into "Special Areas of Conservation" (SACs), and to adopt the required measures for improving the status of habitats and speciespresent on these sites. Following the expiration of the six-year period, Ireland has formally designated only a minor proportion of its SCIs as SACs. Ireland has also not yet established the required conservation objectives and conservation measures for all of the remaining sites. This significant gap in the compliance with the key obligations under the Habitats Directive prevents the sound protection and management of the sites and constitutes a major threat to an appropriate functioning and the coherence of the Natura 2000 network as a whole. Therefore, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion, giving Ireland two months to reply. If Ireland fails to act, the Commission may take the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU. This case is part of a horizontal enforcement action against several Member States.
Trump acknowledges climate change — at his golf course
The billionaire, who called global warming a hoax, warns of its dire effects in his company's application to build a sea wall.
A permit application for a sea wall around one of Donald Trump's golf courses explicitly names global warming as a reason to build the wall.
Donald Trump says he is “not a big believer in global warming.” He has called it “a total hoax,” “bullshit” and “pseudoscience.”
But he is also trying to build a sea wall designed to protect one of his golf courses from “global warming and its effects.”
The New York billionaire is applying for permission to erect a coastal protection works to prevent erosion at his seaside golf resort, Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, in County Clare.
A permit application for the wall, filed by Trump International Golf Links Ireland and reviewed by POLITICO, explicitly cites global warming and its consequences — increased erosion due to rising sea levels and extreme weather this century — as a chief justification for building the structure.
The zoning application raises further questions about how the billionaire developer would confront a risk he has publicly minimized but that has been identified as a defining challenge of this era by world leaders, global industry and the American military. His public disavowal of climate science at the same time he moves to secure his own holdings against the effects of climate change also illustrates the conflict between his political rhetoric and the realities of running a business with seaside assets in the 21st century.
“It's diabolical," said former South Carolina Republican Rep. Bob Inglis, an advocate of conservative solutions to climate change. “Donald Trump is working to ensure his at-risk properties and his company is trying to figure out how to deal with sea level rise. Meanwhile, he’s saying things to audiences that he must know are not true. … You have a soft place in your heart for people who are honestly ignorant, but people who are deceitful, that’s a different thing.”
Neither Trump’s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, nor Alan Garten, the general counsel of the Trump Organization, the umbrella company for Trump’s business ventures, responded to requests for comment.
For years, owners of seaside assets, investors, and industries like reinsurance have been busily adapting to and hedging against climate change – a reality widely acknowledged by the world’s top business leaders.
“If you’re being responsible you are protecting your property and investing in these things,” said Cynthia McHale, director of the insurance program at Ceres, a nonprofit that works with businesses and institutional investors to promote sustainability. “It’s certainly best practice.” But McHale added that many commercial developers of seaside properties fail to account for climate change in their decisions because they are focused on short time horizons.
Trump snatched up the golf resort from a distressed buyer in February 2014, after a winter in which an unusual number of severe storms hit the west coast of Ireland. The businessman immediately took an active hand in advancing and promoting his Irish investment.
In April of 2014, Tony Lowes, director of Friends of the Irish Environment, said Trump called him to offer the group help in opposing a proposed offshore wind project in a nearby, environmentally sensitive area. The group, which has since come out against Trump’s proposed wall, declined the businessman’s offer.
The next month, Trump gave an interview about the golf resort, also known as Trump Doonbeg, on Irish radio, vowing to invest up to €45m in the property. “If I didn’t have confidence in Ireland I would never have made this big investment,” he said. He also promised to “reshape it and make it one of the greatest golf courses in the world.”
But Trump has encountered obstacles to that vision. Days before he concluded his purchase, a single storm eroded as much as eight meters of frontage in some parts of the golf course. Since acquiring the property, Trump has been trying to build coastal protection works to prevent further erosion.
Earlier this month, after failing to win special approval from the national government for the structure, Trump re-submitted a planning application with the Clare County Council seeking permission to build the wall, which would consist of 200,000 tons of rock distributed along two miles of beach. As part of the application, Trump International Golf Links submitted an environmental impact statement — prepared by an Irish environmental consultancy — which argues that erosion is likely to accelerate as sea levels rise more quickly.
he statement acknowledges one Irish government study that assumes a steady rate of erosion through 2050, but argues that the study fails to account for the effects of climate change: “If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct, however, it is likely that there will be a corresponding increase in coastal erosion rates not just in Doughmore Bay but around much of the coastline of Ireland. In our view, it could reasonably be expected that the rate of sea level rise might become twice of that presently occurring. … As a result, we would expect the rate of dune recession to increase.”
The bigger problem, though, according to the impact statement, will be the erosion caused by larger, more frequent storms. “As with other predictions of global warming and its effects, there is no universal consensus regarding changes in these events,” it states. “Our advice is to assume that the recent average rate of dune recession will not alter greatly in the next few decades, perhaps as far into the future as 2050 as assumed in the [government study] but that subsequently an increase in this rate is more likely than not.”
Later, the statement argues that rising sea levels make taking action unavoidable. “A Do nothing/Do minimum option will have the least impact on [natural] processes but the existing erosion rate will continue and worsen, due to sea level rise, in the next coming years, posing a real and immediate risk to most of the golf course frontage and assets,” states the conclusion of an analysis of various options for responding to the erosion.
Trump’s company has warned not only the county council of the perils of climate change, but also local residents. An appendix to TIGL’s planning application includes a scan of a brochure that the company has distributed to residents to make the case for building the proposed coastal protection works. The heading of one page — emblazoned with a “Trump Doonbeg” logo — is “Need for Coastal Protection.” The page lists four bullet points, the last of which is, "Predicted sea level rise and more frequent storm events will increase the rate of erosion throughout the 21st century."
The statements in the filings contradict positions publicly held by Trump, who has weighed in repeatedly on climate change in recent years – mostly to dismiss it outright. In 2012, he tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” though he has since insisted the tweet was a joke. In 2013, he tweeted, “We should be focused on clean and beautiful air-not expensive and business closing GLOBAL WARMING-a total hoax!” In January 2014, he tweeted, “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”
In some recent comments, Trump has continued to defy the widely held scientific consensus about man-made climate change, but his statements have become more complicated, if not entirely clear.
“I’m not a believer in global warming. And I’m not a believer in man-made global warming,” Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in September. “It could be warming, and it’s going to start to cool at some point. And you know, in the early, in the 1920s, people talked about global cooling.”
That same month, Trump appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and said, “I consider climate change to be not one of our big problems. I consider it to be not a big problem at all. I think it’s weather. I think it’s weather changes. It could be some man-made something, but you know, if you look at China, they’re doing nothing about it. Other countries, they’re doing nothing about it. It’s a big planet.”
Asked by a Washington Post editorial writer in March, “Don’t good businessmen hedge against risks, not ignore them?” Trump responded, “I just think we have much bigger risks. I mean I think we have militarily tremendous risks. I think we’re in tremendous peril. I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons.”
The Pentagon, however, describes climate change as “an urgent and growing threat to our national security.”.
Earlier this year, Trump tapped North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer, who also does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change but has expressed support for a modest carbon tax, as an energy adviser. Next Thursday, Trump is scheduled to travel to North Dakota to address a gathering sponsored by an oil industry group, an audience that will likely be receptive to climate skepticism.
But Trump — who recently vowed to “at a minimum” renegotiate December’s Paris climate deal — finds his position at odds with the two-thirds of the American public who described themselves as a “great deal” or “fair amount” worried about global warming in a March Gallup poll.
The New York billionaire has not been shy about abandoning past positions on issues like gun control and abortion as his views and his political considerations have evolved. And as he pivots to the general election, his stated position could come into line with the position taken by his business.
“It’s conceivable that he might swing around on this,” Inglis said. “Of course it would be a smart political move for him or for anyone because that’s where the public’s already going. That’s where millennials are going. That’s where the future is.”