Doonbeg's good news hardly worth the bowing and scraping
There’s talk of further investment but so far, that’s all Donald Trump has done
Couldn’t have mustered a good healthy cloudburst, no? Couldn’t have found a nice, squally west-of-Ireland special with rain coming in sideways just as Donald Trump came down the steps of his 757 at Shannon Airport? Trust the poxy Irish weather to decide to hold off just this once.
Nothing against the man himself. Trump has been out there for a long time and he’s been wealthy beyond words for most of it. Like the queen assuming that the world smells of paint because every room she walks into has just been given a fresh coat, he likely imagines that all airports come with red carpets and fawning politicians and musical turns appropriate to the locale. You can be sure he saw nothing yesterday morning that surprised him.
How depressing. The preposterous welcome conferred upon a man who has done nothing more than help himself to a cut-price property deal was the worst kind of forelock-tugging. Trump has bought a landmark golf resort for €15 million, one that was valued at five times that just last summer. There’s talk of further investment and more development on the site in Doonbeg but so far, that’s all he’s done.
Yet there stood Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, with nothing better to do on a Monday morning. And a committee of local dignitaries lined up for handshakes as a harpist, a violinist and a singer had their welcome drowned out by the steady background whirr of Trump’s jet engine.
Pick a jobs announcement, any jobs announcement. Pick a big one, like that one a few months back when PayPal said they’d be bringing 1,000 jobs to Dundalk. Where was PayPal’s red carpet? Their haunting balladeer? Nowhere to be seen. It was a room in the Merrion with the Taoiseach at the top table and a few rows of chairs laid out in front. That’s how these things are done.
Except when the man with the money has been on the telly. Ireland didn’t greet Donald Trump yesterday as a businessman, we greeted him as a celebrity. We confirmed that the only thing that makes us go weaker at the knees than a minted visitor is a famous minted visitor.
And you don’t get much more wealthy or well-known than Donald Trump. Forbes has him pitched at being worth just short of $4 billion, although he himself says it is more like $7 billion. Whatever the number, it’s the sort of scratch that makes his golf investments here, in Scotland and across America a relatively small part of his empire.
Trump is Manhattan, Trump is Vegas. Trump is The Apprentice too, a man so devoted to his own celebrity he continually floated the idea of a presidential run as a blatant wheeze to drive up the ratings for his TV show. He didn’t, of course. But the sheer acreage, tonnage and byteage of media coverage devoted to it did the job he needed.
The fact it was obvious didn’t seem to matter. Trump never saw a microphone he didn’t feel like blessing with his tones, nor a camera-crew whose day wouldn’t be improved by a glimpse of his visage. Everything in Trump World is the greatest, the biggest, the best. It’s also self-evidently nonsense but that doesn’t stop people who should know better eating it up.
Consider this guff from yesterday, on the subject of the ballroom he intends building on Doonbeg. “A lot of people work in ballrooms,” Trump said. “They generate a lot of taxes and they generate a lot of jobs. One of the main reasons I’m here is siting the ballroom. But we’ll come back to you with an application for a truly great ballroom. I believe people from all over the world will be using this ballroom.”
Now, if the man wants to build himself the stately pleasuredome of ballrooms – and surely Kubla Khan himself will return to weep salt tears by the time it’s built – then Godspeed. But we’re surely a bit better than all the yes-sir, be-begging-your-pardon-sir that was on show yesterday.
Even the usually reliably unimpressed Seán O’Rourke trumpeted on his radio show that this morning’s edition would come from Doonbeg, complete with an interview with The Donald. He actually called him that, The Donald. When even Seán O’Rourke can’t keep a lid on the giddiness, it’s time to wonder what we’re at.
Of course there’s no harm in wishing Trump well with his endeavours in Doonbeg. Whether there’s really an appetite for his idea of making it the third point of what he calls a helicopter triangle with his courses in Aberdeen and Turnberry is for the future to tell us. For now, he’s got himself a good deal and the area looks like it will do well out of it. It’s great and all. Hardly worth the bowing and scraping though.