Action adjourned to allow An Bord Pleanála consider appeal against council decision

An environmentalist’s High Court challenge against planning permission granted to build a sea wall at Donald Trump’s golf club at Doonbeg in Co Clare has been put on hold pending a decision on the development from An Bord Pleanála.

Peter Sweetman brought a challenge against Clare County Council’s decision last December to grant planning permission to build a sea wall to stop part of the course at the Doonbeg Golf Club being eroded by the Atlantic Ocean.

The local authority granted approval for the plan despite opposition from An Taisce, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), the West Coast Surf Club and others.

The plan — which involves building a 38,000-tonne rock barrier to protect three holes at the course “as a matter of urgency” — had the backing of the local community in Doonbeg.

Mr Sweetman secured permission from the High Court to legally challenge the grant of planning permission and also put a stay on any appeal before An Bord Pleanála.

His case is against Clare Co Co, while Trump International Golf Links Ireland Enterprises Ltd, An Bord Pleanála and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht are all notice parties.

However, the parties have agreed to adjourn the action and lift the stay to allow An Bord Pleanála consider an appeal against Clare Co Council’s decision.

A condition of the parties agreement is that An Bord Pleanála will not issue any determination on the appeal before October 15th next.

The case was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Donald Binchy at Wednesday’s vacation sitting of the High Court.

The Judge adjourned the case to a date in October, for mention only.

In his action, Mr Sweetman from Rossport, Ballina, Co Mayo has the High Court for an order quashing the planning permission for the development comprising coastal erosion management works at Carrowmore Dunes, White Strand, Doughmore Bay, Doonbeg.

Aodhan O'Faolain


The new legal challenge to Clare County Council’s grant of permission for Donald Trumps 38,000-tonne rock barrier to protect his golf course is supported by the State’s own submissions to the local authority.

Leave to challenge the Council’s December 2017 permission, which had been appealed to An Bord Pleanala, was granted yesterday to environmentalist Peter Sweetman by the High Court, which also imposed a stay on An Bord Pleanala making any ruling on the appeal until the case is completed. Mr. Sweetman, who took the action on his own behalf, was a key member of Friends of the Irish Environment when the NGO originally challenged the planning permission for the golf course in the High Court in 1999.

According to the Department of Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s submission to Clare County Council, ‘uncertainty remains regarding the implications for the conservation objectives and for the integrity of the site.’

The Department argued that ‘the Natura Impact Statement appear to argue that the coastal protection measures are necessary for the conservation of the SAC, stating that the do minimum/do nothing option will frustrate the achievement of the conservation objectives.’ Citing the fact that ‘dunes are naturally dynamic systems that require continuous supply and circulation of sand’, the Department emphasised that ‘It is important to note that the position of this Department is that coastal erosion and deposition are natural processes on 'soft' coasts, and that the 'do nothing' scenario, i.e. allowing natural processes to continue, is reflected in and is consistent with the conservation objectives for the SAC.’

The Minister chose not to support his Department’s submission and lodge an appeal, in spite of requests from environmentalists to do so.

Friends of the Irish Environment, who along with a number of others had also appealed Clare County Council’s decision, said the Judicial Review was the correct response to a decision which the State itself said was legally flawed.

Director Tony Lowes said ‘Too often Local Authorities give permission, knowing that if the decision is challenged, it will be An Bord Pleanala who will ultimately be blamed. In this case, the Local Authority will rightly have to face up to ignoring the State and its own Environmental Officer in granting a permission that flies in the face of our nature conservation legislation.’

Mr. Sweetman’s appeal to the Local Authority concluded by quoting the Court of Justice of the European Union which has established that an assessment, "cannot have lacunae and must contain complete, precise and definitive findings and conclusions capable of removing all reasonable scientific doubt as to the effects of the works proposed on the protected site concerned'.

Read Peter Sweetman’s appeal to the Council

Irish Language: David Healy 087 6178852

Tony Lowes 087 2176316


We are awaiting a revised application which will go before Clare County Council by the end of December, 2017. The public will then have 5 weeks to comment, with a decision following 3 weeks later. That decision can then be appealed to the Planning Appeals Board which may convene an Oral Hearing in cases of public interest or significance. The Board has as a target of determining all cases in 4 months, but Oral Hearings and technical complexities can delay the decisions, which can then be Judicially Reviewed in the High Court, a process that can further delay a decision by up to some years. A further appeal to the Appeals Court is then possible, with important cases ending up in the Supreme Court. Watch this space.

Clare County Council announced this evening that they are granting permission for ‘coastal erosion management works’ at Doonbeg, County Clare, for Donald Trump’s golf course.

Friends of the Irish Environment, who failed in their 2000 High Court challenge to the original construction of the original golf course but succeeded in ensuring protection for a tiny snail, were one of the unsuccessful objectors.

Tony Lowes of FIE said that the group was ‘in shock’. ‘We relied on the best international scientific advice which said with absolute certainty that proposed seawalls will destroy the beach in front of them and will increase the rate of erosion on adjacent beaches. How can the Council state that the proposal would ‘not significantly impact on the amenities of the area, in particular Carrowmore Dunes, White Strand and Doughmore Bay’ after the advice they have received?

‘Any intervention through physical barriers will impede the natural evolution of the dune system and put at risk protected species, even without considering the loss to Doughmore strand and its great dunes. As the experts advised the Council, ‘The only question is the timing — will it happen in a few years or will it happen in a decade or two. It will happen.’

‘The decision must be appealed’ he said, ‘as the populist precedent it sets ushers in the growing new dark age of climate sceptics and anti-science that threatens far more than a single sand dune system on the wild Atlantic way.’

An appeal must be made to the Planning Appeals Board, An Bord Pleanala, by 26 January 2018. The fee for appealing €220. The Board aims to decide on all appeals within four months. That decision may only be challenged by way of a Judicial Review to the High Court.

Further Information

Tony Lowes 087 2176316  / (0)27 74771


Petition succeeds as County Clare surf spot is saved


Advocates for Doughmore Beach earned a symbolic victory after news broke that an application to build a giant seawall was withdrawn.

You may remember a great deal of hubbub a few months back when a Trump-owned golf course in County Clare, Ireland, proposed building a massive seawall along Doughmore Beach. The plan was to prop up parts of the golf course threatened by erosion and rising seas with a 2-mile long rock seawall. Problem was, to local surfers and environmentalists, the proposed seawall threatened traditional sand movement patterns and had the potential to destroy a well-surfed sandbar at Doughmore. Lots of local residents were also worried that the wall would permanently scar the beach.

In an incomprehensible bit of irony, the Trump team’s application for the seawall referenced protecting the property from potential issues from rising seas, even as presidential candidate Trump routinely called climate change a “hoax” (The mind reels).

Even so, hundreds of locals are employed at the course, and they in turn were concerned that if the wall didn’t get built, the course would close and they’d lose their jobs. Trump is pretty popular in County Clare circles after bringing employment and tourist cash to an off-the-beaten path part of Ireland that can struggle financially.

Groups like Save The Waves began circulating a petition to put pressure on County Clare administrators to deny permission for the Trump International course to build the wall. Over 100,000 people signed the petition, in Ireland and internationally. The effort paid off when last week, it was announced, according to Yahoo News, that the application for the sea wall “was withdrawn by the applicant.”

Irish charger Fergal Smith called the decision a “victory for common sense.”

A sort of compromise was struck, and a much smaller, less intrusive wall be be built, and two holes of the golf course will be moved further from the sea.

I checked in with Nick Mucha from Save The Waves who helped spearhead this campaign. Here’s what he had to say:

“This is a rare and inspiring example of many people working together to overcome the long odds. Trump’s decision to walk away from the seawall proposal is a huge milestone for the #NatureTrumpsWalls campaign. I hope that the surf community takes note that if we work together for the things that we hold dear, we can have a meaningful impact. However, our work continues as we must analyze the next series of proposals and ensure they do not pose any risk to the unique coastal resources of Doughmore Beach.”

Love it or hate it, the incoming Trump administration is about to test the resolve of environmentally-conscious surfers across the U.S., and, potentially, as the Irish case shows, internationally too. Efforts to save Doughmore Beach show that concentrated action by a committed group of surfers and activists can, believe it or not, affect change when you might otherwise least expect it.