Michael Noonan and the Trump Factor


There was Michael Noonan out on the red carpet, curtsying to the big man from Amerikay with the shiny teeth and the improbable hair, while a a singer struggled to be heard above the groan of the big man’s jet engine.

An assembled crowd, the men inexplicably wearing tails – singers and tail-wearers in the Trump colours – and a few dignitaries looked on, grins plastered on. And, like the risen Jesus, the great one walked out of the sky onto the stony grey soil of our little country.

Begorrah, twas a great day.

Between double page spreads in national newspapers, at least one national radio programme set to broadcast live from West Clare, and this bizarre red carpet pageant at Shannon Airport, it seems the Trump Factor has arrived.

At least, the Trump Factor has arrived, if that’s what you want to call our national willingness to ritually humiliate ourselves every time somebody whose pockets jingle calls around.

Wisha, the praties are saved for another year.
A Shannon Airport spokesperson – who didn’t want to be quoted but referred me back to the press release hailing Trump’s arrival – couldn’t give me a cost for the event, or tell me who paid for it. I’m assuming it didn’t cost a huge amount, financially speaking. But dignity is priceless.

Trump spent €15m buying Doonbeg. Of course it’s a welcome investment, as is the news that he plans to invest more. Better a viable resort than another reminder of a nation that spent 15 years in thrall to property developers and bling, eh.

Doonbeg is another investment that Trump bought at a knockdown price, and he’ll have to spend a bit more on it in order to make money out of it. That’s what he does. There are Trump golf resorts all over the US and another in Scotland.

At his Scottish resort, he promised 6,000 jobs, of which 200 have materialised, promised a £1bn spend, of which £25m has happened, and bulldozed environmentally sensitive areas of the Scottish coastline, according to a BBC Panorama programme.

I’d kind of understand the poor frozen harpist and singer if Trump was Irish-American. If he’d professed a love for the land, a gra for the Gaeilge, or something else that indicated he knew any difference between where he’d just landed and where he’d been a few hours ago.

He’s not Irish-American. His interest in Ireland is purely financial. He’s a businessman, he saw a good deal and went for it.

I feel a bit insulted for the Kangs, the Chinese family that bought Fota Island Resort (€20m) and the Kingsley Hotel (€6m) in Cork. Where was Michael Noonan for them? Or is it only for celebrities that he’ll show up?

This Government has done a good job ‘selling’ Ireland abroad, which, although distasteful, is necessary. But what on earth was the Minister for Finance doing welcoming a man who bought a golf course on a red carpet in a regional airport?

Tourism is not his brief and Clare is not his constituency. Whoever is advising Minister Noonan on his PR clearly is not a fan of Panorama.

I’ve heard of Irish ministers visiting aid recipient countries – where we actually donate money to save lives – that got less fervid receptions than Trump did in Shannon.

We do seem to have a couple of things in common with ‘the Donald’, to be fair.

Much like the man himself, and his famously financially savvy ex-wives, we absolutely love to see someone coming with a full wallet.

From The Herald, 13 May 2014.

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