By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The discovery of a rare snail about the size of a thumbnail living in sand dunes at Doonbeg is threatening the development of a £12 million Greg Norman-designed golf course for the West Clare resort.
The 2-millimeter Vertigo Angustior snail is a rare land snail that is believed to date back to the ice age. It has been found in the 100-foot-high dunes on the east of Doonbeg and the only known habitat in Ireland is the Rye Water Valley in County Kildare.
It is one of three such snails listed for protection under the EU Habitats Directive.
A decision on the golf development is expected to be made next month by the Planning Board after appeals were lodged against the granting of permission by Clare County Council.
One of the objectors is the government’s Heritage Council, set up in 1995 to protect and preserve flora and fauna.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
A spokesman described the site as having "supreme nature conservation value."
The snail may not appear significant, he said, but it is listed for special protection and the site appears to be one of the most important of the country for the species.
The golf links development could upset the whole fabric of the sand dune system, which contains types of grasses and plants that are important from a nature conservation point of view.
"There is a potential there to cause severe damage to the site," the spokesman said.
A spokeswomen for the Doonbeg Community Development company said it is fully backing the golf course project.
"It seems crazy to stop it because of a snail," she said.