We’ve Been Trumped?

‘The man lives in a pig sty. He lives in garbage. He’s a pig.’

– Donald Trump on a local objector to his Scottish golf course

I love everything about Local Hero. The story, the Knopfler soundtrack, the landscape, the people – everything. So I might be slightly biased towards a documentary portrayed as a real life Local Hero and which features clips from the classic.

Tonight at 22:35 RTE One are showing the 2011 documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped‘, a David and Goliath story about Trump’s construction of a luxury golf course on an environmentally protected site in Aberdeenshire amidst local opposition.

The only pity is that it wasn’t shown the day he arrived in Shannon to a fawning welcome recently after he bought Doonbeg golf resort. ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ follows the local residents as they make their last stand in the face of security harassments, legal threats and the cutting off of their water and electricity.

The Donald (as Sean O’Rourke cringingly referred to him in a sycophantic interview at the time of his Shannon stopover) doesn’t like the documentary. If that’s not enough to make you like it, I don’t know what will.

More accessible and engaging in my view than the equally significant ‘The Pipe’ on the Shell to Sea campaign, things have moved on further since ‘You’ve Been Trumped’.

The Scottish Government supported the construction of the Aberdeenshire golf course despite objections but Trump halted work on a planned hotel, housing and a second course on the site when plans for an offshore windfarm close to the links course emerged and were upheld by the Scottish courts. Trump then announced that they would instead be focusing ‘all of our investment and energy’ on Doonbeg (lucky us). He had alleged in court that Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, had secretly interfered in the decision to approve the 11-turbine site and there had been clear bias in favour of the windfarm.

As captured in this Scotsman cartoon, the key lesson for Michael Noonan et al (and the Doonbeg community) is that Trump can turn.

P.S. For a good account of Trump’s US presidential election will he/won’t he ridiculousness read the BuzzFeed article he didn’t like.

The Donald



Ireland’s New Village: Coill Dubh, Kildare

Bord na Móna (whose partial merger with semi-state forestry company Coillte was announced recently) own over 80,000 hectares so have a huge role in our landscape. One of their (declining) marks is the brown expanses of peat extraction. Another is whole new communities.

In the early 1940s Bord na Móna (then called the Turf Development Board) advertised in local newspapers all over the country for workers to come to the midlands to harvest the bogs.

This led to a migration of thousands of people who lived in 14 specially built camps throughout the county which housed between 300 and 500 men. There was precedent – in the 1920s a camp housed hundreds during the construction of Ardnacrusha power plant.

The camps lasted to the end of the 1950s and were replaced by some new housing schemes designed by Frank Gibney (98 houses were built outside Rochfortbridge for example) and at least one totally new village, Coill Dubh, County Kildare which contained 160 houses, a school and shops. Other facilities such as a church, etc. were not originally planned for but arrived later.

Planner and architect Fergal Mac Cabe is excellent on the significance of these settlements and Gibney’s importance to Irish planning and urban design. Of Coill Dubh Mac Cabe notes:

The tower of the school lines up with the vista through one of the arched buildings. The skilful way the open space flows through this scheme, now expanding, now contracting, maintains constant interest and the large central space, with its axis and strong feature buildings give a high sense or urbanity and identity.



Sustainable Development or Sustaining Development?

How many of you have heard of a document called ‘Our Sustainable Future’?

Launched in June 2012 it is Ireland’s framework for sustainable development. Given that it’s something that seems so overarching it should pretty much be at the heart of public policy and decision making.

But it’s not.

It is the successor to 1997’s ‘Sustainable Development – A Strategy for Ireland’ which raised, in particular, some interesting questions about the desirability of car dependency and one off housing but despite the warnings it was an issue subsequently ignored. In 2004 then Green Party TD Eamon Ryan observed ‘The definition of sustainable development here is sustained development’. In the period following 1997 Ireland became one of the most car-dependent countries in the world.

‘Our Sustainable Future’ is a curious document. For one it opens ‘Sustainable development is about ourselves’. That seems to stand in contrast to the most widely quoted definition from the Brundtland Commission, i.e. that sustainable development is ‘development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

There are other pearls of wisdom in there, my favourite line is:

‘While the vision may seem ambitious, even daunting, it is achievable. We need to accomplish this because we must.’

It refers to fiscal and financial sustainability a lot.  It doesn’t question the compatibility of the current ‘business as usual’ economic model with social or environmental sustainability. Bizarrely it suggests ‘rapid economic growth’ and motorway networks represent recent progress towards sustainable development!

There are some reasonable things. It sets out key principles – including social, generational, gender equity and good decisionmaking. However an ‘innovative, competitive’ economy is still first. It talks about good decision making, participation and bottom up consultative processes but it also suggests that you talk to these people because they’re far from the labour market and you are only doing it to bring them closer to it.

There are a number of specific actions and 2.7 delves into an area of particular interest to me, sustainable communities. According to the report

‘Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, are environmentally sustainable and contribute to a high quality of life for residents. They are safe and inclusive, well-planned, built and run, and offer equality of opportunity and good services for all.’

Ultimately however it focuses on housing issues in the last twenty years such as ghost estates, negative equity etc. without really speaking of persistently marginalised communities.

The actions under this heading generally revolve around implementing policies and guidelines already in place like the Government’s architecture guidelines and the National Spatial Strategy. The document also identifies gaps in achieving its aims – sadly a lack of understanding of sustainable development isn’t listed as one of them.

It’s not to say this is simple. Sustainable development is a very slippery concept. I have a Masters that includes it in the title, work in a system where it is the key aim and am doing a PhD looking at it and my view of what it is and isn’t is still evolving.  It has been described as a contested concept (Jacobs, 1995; O’Riordan and Voisey, 1998) and an oxymoron (Njiro, 2002). It has been called ‘the latest development catchphrase’ (Lele, 1991).

Perhaps the most glaring example of all this in Irish policy (apart from sustainable development frameworks that you can ignore in the first place) is the Planning and Development Act, 2000 which is an Act to provide for ‘proper planning and sustainable development’.  The Act updated Irish planning legislation and has an emphasis on ‘sustainable’ development, with the adjective qualifying development throughout.

For then Minister for the Environment Noel Dempsey sustainable development was ‘woven into the fabric of the Bill’. Despite this focus on sustainable development, the term was deliberately not defined as in the Minister’s view

‘it is such a dynamic and all-embracing concept, and one which will evolve over time, that any legal definition would tend to restrict and stifle it. Weaving it in to the fabric of the Bill, as we have done, gives effect to the concept in a holistic and comprehensive way’.

That doesn’t seem to work. Correcting that is not an action included in ‘Our Sustainable Future’ that maybe should be.