Trump’s Conflicts of Interest in Ireland

The greens at a golf course in Ireland get their daily manicure, August 1998.

The source of Trump’s EU Animus

In 2014, the Trump Organization bought the struggling Doonbeg Golf Club in Ireland for an estimated $15 million. President Donald Trump, after a personal visit to the resort, pledged to invest some $47 million in improvements and expansion.

However, the Trump Organization made clear that expansion would depend on building a massive, two-mile long seawall to combat erosion at the site. A controversy soon erupted over the scale and impact of the proposed seawall, including its potential damage to the habitat of an indigenous snail population.

As The Washington Post noted, “Before Donald Trump proposed a 1,000-mile wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to stop migrants, he tried to build a two-mile barrier on a pristine stretch of Irish coast to rein in an ocean. He didn’t succeed. Irish surfers, weekend beachcombers, environmental scientists, local planners and even a microscopic snail got in his way.” Despite the fact that Trump was handed this defeat by a ragtag assortment of groups, he appears to have singled out the European Union—whose regulations laid the foundation for many of these groups’ protestations—as ultimately responsible.

Trump’s anger with the European Union over the golf course seemed to shade his perception of Europe’s  political and economic union as a whole and spurred him to cheerlead the United Kingdom’s Brexit decision, in which a majority of U.K. citizens voted to withdraw from the EU. His championing of Brexit is a great example of how his personal financial interests led him to pursue a policy that most agree is not in the national interest. Further, as the Washington Post story also noted, quoting Dave Flynn, co-chair of a local surfers’ group that opposed the seawall: “He speaks as though it was the E.U. that stopped it [building the seawall]. It wasn’t.” Flynn went on to observe, “It’s amazing that such a big foreign policy decision like this could be made on such an ill-informed basis.” And indeed, the decision on the wall was made by local officials and not the EU.

During a 2017 trip to the resort, Eric Trump proclaimed that his father “is a guy who loves this property, he loves Ireland, he loves everything about it and he is stuck with the most difficult job in the world.” It is not surprising, of course, that Eric Trump listed his father’s love for the golf property first. And as CBS News notes, U.S. taxpayers footed the bill for $11,261 in Secret Service expenses for Eric Trump to visit and promote the Irish golf course and an additional $4,030 for his personal limousine expenses.

Follow the paper trail

According to Trump’s July 2015 financial disclosure—which was not verified by regulators and therefore may not include all of his foreign deals or assets—Trump owned, had ownership interest in, or was a managing member of several companies related to his project in Ireland, including the following:

  • TIGL Ireland Enterprises Ltd., director, president
  • TIGL Ireland Management Ltd., president, director
  • TW Venture II LLC, president, received “None (or less than $201)”
  • TW Venture II Managing Member Corp., president, director, chairman
  • Trump International Golf Links – Doonbeg, owned by TW Venture II LLC, received $10,755,683 in “golf related revenue”

According to Trump’s May 2016 financial disclosure—which was also not verified by regulators and therefore may not include all of his foreign deals or assets—Trump owned, had ownership interest in, or was a managing member of several companies related to his project in Ireland, including the following:

Trump's Conflicts of Interest

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This interactive map of the world spells out President Donald Trump’s and his family’s conflicts of interest in 25 countries around the globe.
  • TIGL Ireland Enterprises Ltd. (Trump International Golf Links – Doonbeg), director, president
  • TIGL Ireland Management Ltd., president, director
  • TW Venture II LLC, president, received “None (or less than $201)”
  • TW Venture II Managing Member Corp., president, director, chairman
  • Trump International Golf Links – Doonbeg, owned by TW Venture II LLC, received $10,750,645 in “golf related revenue”

Based on information from both disclosure forms, Trump received as much as $21.5 million for his Ireland golf resort project over the past two years, and he and his children will presumably continue to receive money from this arrangement.

As with so many things, President Trump’s confusion as to the basic facts regarding his Irish golf course has triggered him to take positions and stances that badly undermine the U.S. national interest. Trump was so angered by the fact that local activists blocked his efforts to build a massive and intrusive wall around his golf course in Ireland that he now cheerleads the potential destruction of the European Union—an institution that has been integral to promoting markets abroad for U.S. trade and an important bulwark of security cooperation. Trump’s failure to address his ongoing business conflicts in Ireland will continue to shape his views toward that country and will make America less secure and prosperous as a result.

Read the full series of columns here.

John Norris is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Carolyn Kenney is a policy analyst with the National Security and International Policy team at the Center.