Doonbeg: Welcome to 'Trump town'

By Niall McCracken

image captionKathleen Whelan, who owns a shop in Doonbeg, is looking forward to the presidential visit

Last St Patrick's Day US President Donald Trump underlined his affection for Ireland when he told reporters during a White House press conference that he thought it was "a special place".

It seems the feeling is mutual for at least some of the residents in the small town of Doonbeg, in County Clare.

American flags and bunting cover many of its streets and businesses, only a few miles away from the president's luxury golf resort, where he'll spend the next two nights.

While the sun is shining on Doonbeg, it's clear that it's not just another normal day in the village.

A no-fly zone, heavy police presence and road closures mean residents who live within the exclusion boundary need a special pass to access their homes.

image captionThe town of Doonbeg is home to Donald Trump's golf resort

But the high security and fanfare doesn't seem to have bothered Kathleen Whelan, who owns the local shop.

She says President Trump should receive a warm Irish welcome because his visit means an international spotlight on Doonbeg.

"At the end of the day he's the president of the United States, and America has been good to Ireland," she says.

"There are a lot of people from Ireland out working in the States and a lot of American companies have invested here, so we shouldn't be so quick to judge."

She added: "There's no investment in rural Ireland. Everything goes to Dublin.

"It's tough for people to earn a living and we recently lost the post office in the last year.

"President Trump's presence here is great publicity for west Clare, so he would be very welcome in my shop".

US-Irish links

There is no doubt Mr Trump is seen by many as a controversial figure.

Some who have opposed his visit have cited his policies - from the executive order that restricts entry to the US from certain countries, to the wall with Mexico, as well as his outspoken attacks against political opponents and the media.

image captionResidents are looking forward to welcoming the president and have decorated their homes with American flags

Protests around the president's visit to Ireland are taking place at Shannon Airport - where Air Force One will touch down - and more are planned for Dublin on Thursday and Ennis on Friday.

Several American tech giants have located their European operations in Ireland, due to its relatively low corporation tax rate.

Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Google all have a significant presence in Dublin.

image copyrightPA
image captionThe US president will meet with Leo Varadkar during his visit to the Republic of Ireland - the duo were previously pictured in Washington DC during St Patrick's Day

In September 2018 Apple paid the Irish government €14.3bn (£12.7bn), money that the European Commission ruled the tech giant owed due to illegal tax breaks.

The two-way economic relationship that exists between Ireland and the US is top of the agenda each time the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) and the president meet.

media captionWhy has every US president since JFK visited Shannon Airport?

But away from the big business deals being shaped in Dublin, for many in the surrounding area of Doonbeg the main interest is the jobs and investment Mr Trump can bring to the local area.

The president's Doonbeg golf resort employs more than 300 people at peak season.

President Trump has also put forward proposals worth millions of pounds to invest in a ballroom, a leisure centre and additional housing around his resort.

The 19th hole...

Tommy Tubirdy owns one of the local pubs in Doonbeg.

He said: "We need to keep our young people here and his golf resort employs a lot of people and that needs emphasised.

"People have a right to protest but this community would be lost without the resort."

image captionTommy Tubridy thinks the president may even tweet about Doonbeg

The last time a serving US president visited Ireland was Barack Obama in 2011.

During the fanfare of President Obama's trip he sampled a pint of stout in the local pub located in Moneygall, home to one of his Irish ancestors.

Tommy says he's hoping President Trump might call into his pub after he gets settled in his hotel.

"We might get a tweet this evening saying he's on his way."

image captionGardaí (Irish police) maintain high presence in the town

But what about the fact that this president doesn't drink alcohol?

"Sure we could pour him a stout to look at and put his name on the pint and we've very good spring water in Doonbeg," says Tommy.

"I'm sure we could sort him out with a glass of that."

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