Associate Editor
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The Inertia

President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the United States’ southern border with Mexico has dominated headlines in recent weeks. But, across the pond, Irish surfers, concerned citizens, and environmentalists continue to grapple with a different sort of wall project proposed by the Trump Organization.

The issue dates back to 2016 when Trump International Golf Links, located adjacent Doughmore Beach in Doonbeg, Ireland, sought to build a seawall to combat the effects of coastal erosion. The initial proposal called for a wall “made from 200,000 tons of boulders” that would run two miles along the beach at Doughmore, potentially ruining a few of the area’s best waves in the process.

Months after the project first made headlines, it was sharply defeated by a petition that gained over 100,000 signatures. But a scaled-back proposal emerged in early 2017. And in December 2017, Clare County Council approved the construction of two seawalls – one over 2000 feet long and the other over 800 feet long.

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Save the Waves Coalition, the coastal conservation organization behind the original petition, filed an appeal as did several strategic partners and over a year later the case remains undecided.

Save the Waves and other key environmental groups contend a seawall would actually accelerate coastal erosion and undermine the natural function of the dunes that exist on the beach.

“What we’re faced with is the end of the sand dune system,” said Tony Lowes, Director of Friends of the Irish Environment, in a release. “The building of a coastal defense along the shoreline will stop the dunes from growing as they should.”

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The fear is that the scaled-back approach proposed by Trump International Golf Links would lead to more coastal erosion at the edges of each wall, requiring added defenses and ultimately resulting in a wall or series of walls closely resembling the two-mile-long proposal that was defeated in 2016.

“You hear about building a wall on a sand dune as supposedly a solution, but it’s really just about trying to save someone’s business for a few years,” said Fergal Smith, who is from Clare County. “It doesn’t really matter how much money it makes. If it destroys the ecosystem and if it’s damaging this area, then there’s no business.”

Save the Waves and its partners continue to pressure Ireland’s national planning appeal board, An Bord Pleanála, to hear the case and ultimately repeal County Clare’s approval of the project.

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