Irish Taoiseach under fire over Donald Trump golf course representations
Leo Varadkar, then tourism minister, received a call from Mr Trump about proposals for a wind farm close to his Doonbeg resort.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has come under fire after making inquiries about a wind farm close to Donald Trump’s golf course.
Three or four years ago he received a call from businessman Mr Trump and contacted the planning authorities. The planning application close to the Doonbeg resort in Co Clare was refused.
Mr Varadkar was tourism minister at the time and Mr Trump, a private citizen, had raised concerns the wind farm near Ireland’s Atlantic coast could affect the beauty of the landscape near his course.
Irish Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said: “For the Taoiseach to be seen to meddle and intervene on planning processes at Doonbeg is entirely inappropriate.”
Mr Varadkar revealed details of his intervention in an anecdote during his speech at Speaker Paul Ryan’s traditional St Patrick’s Day lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.
He told how he received an unexpected call from businessman Mr Trump saying he had bought the resort but there was a problem.
Mr Varadkar recalled Mr Trump saying: “Nearby somebody was trying to build a wind farm and that, of course, could have a real impact on tourism and the beauty of the landscape.”
The Taoiseach should not be meddling in planning at Doonbeg or interfering with President Trump's private business interests. https://t.co/JZX5SRh6ho— Brendan Howlin (@BrendanHowlin) March 15, 2018
He added: “I endeavoured to do what I could do about it and I rang the county council and inquired about the planning permission, and subsequently the planning permission was declined and the wind farm was never built.
“Thus, the landscape had been preserved and the president has kindly given me credit for that.
“I do think it probably would have been refused anyway but I am very happy to take credit for it if the President is going to offer it to me.”
Doonbeg describes itself as a premier golf resort nestled along the coast.
Its affairs have attracted opposition from environmentalists before amid legal wrangling over plans to build a sea wall to stop part of the course being eroded by the Atlantic.
Taoiseach privately interfered in planning process at behest of @realDonaldTrump to stop a Clare wind farm. He should have made that public earlier. The council must outline who he talked to & what was said. Shocking he seems not to see all that's wrong here. Treats it as a joke. https://t.co/12zXZLMAol— Eamon Ryan (@EamonRyan) March 15, 2018
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan TD said: “This is a shocking admission from the Taoiseach and it harks back to the very dark days in the Irish planning system where political interference ensured that the rich and powerful got what they wanted.
“The fact that the Taoiseach so flippantly admitted his intervention today only makes matters worse.
“There is no doubt that he exercised undue influence and undermined due process with his intervention. It was, and is, completely inappropriate. It is a shocking error of judgement. Clare County Council now need to outline who the minister contacted and whether there is a record of what was said.”
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar later moved to clarify the Taoiseach’s remarks, insisting there was nothing inappropriate about what he had done.
“As Minister for Tourism, Leo Varadkar received a call from Donald Trump regarding a wind farm proposal near Doonbeg, which is a significant tourism asset on the west coast,” he said.
“It’s normal for ministers to seek information on planning applications when issues are raised by citizens, businesses or investors.
“This matter has been mentioned publicly on many occasions by the Taoiseach. It was not a court case or judicial matter.”
Clare County Council later issued a statement to say all “representations, objections and observations” on the planning application were available to view on the planning file.
“There is no representation by Leo Varadkar, the then minister for Tourism and Sport, or any elected member on this planning file,” said the statement.