Thanks to coverage of their story by IrishCentral, three backpackers from Texas who were refused entry into Ireland last week by immigration authorities have been offered an all-expenses paid trip back to the Emerald Isle by an Irish hotel group, and now an ad featuring a cowboy is being made in their honor.
Colin Zwirko, 21, and his two friends Gavin Sides, 19, and Ben Whitehurst, 21, were refused entry into Ireland last Friday by an immigration officer who claimed she didn’t believe that they were on a backpacking trip.
After the door to Ireland was slammed in their faces, the trio, who were planning a six-month European trip beginning in Ireland, had to each pay nearly $1,900 for a flight back to the U.S.
Insulted, upset and angered at the way they were treated in Ireland, Zwirko, who saved $10,000 for his once in a lifetime trip, and his Texas buddies decided to do something about their situation and approached the media.
Zwirko’s story eventually reached Ireland, and after word got out that the Americans were turned away for not having an address on their immigration slip (they were planning to stay on the couch of a person they met through the internet but they didn’t have the address on them), floods of offers came their way.
“They are a going to get a massive Irish welcome,” said Anthony Kelly, the hotel group’s marketing manager. “We might give them a pint of Guinness when they arrive.”
This morning on live Irish radio, Zwirko and his friends, all from the Dallas/Forth Worth area, accepted the invitation.
“It’s been so amazing,” Zwirko told IrishCentral.
“We were live on air and we accepted their offer,” said Zwirko, who has been staying with a friend in New Jersey since the young men returned to the U.S. last Friday.
Later on Thursday afternoon, Zwirko got word that an ad campaign in their honor was being made for radio in Ireland.
"These guys...will become the greatest tourism ambassadors for Ireland in the United States," Kelly said, adding that they have even inspired an ad campaign for his company.
"It is what we hope is a good Texan cowboy accent in honor of the Plano 3."
“We really didn’t expect this response. The people of Ireland have been amazing. It just show’s you can’t judge the country by one woman,” Zwirko said.
After learning a hard lesson in Dublin last week, Zwirko said: “Obviously, we are going to bring what they required of us the first time.”
On Monday the Irish Embassy in Washington apologized to the three young men, and on Tuesday the Irish Immigration Garda Bureau in Dublin said they were investigating why the men were refused entry into Ireland.
Sinead Grace, a spokesperson for Tourism Ireland, said they were elated to hear that the Irish hoteliers have been so kind with their offers.
“Ireland’s reputation as a friendly and welcoming place is extremely important, and we wouldn’t take it for granted,” Grace said. “That is extremely important for us.”
However, still concerned about issues with immigration, Zwirko said he is still worried they may not be allowed into Ireland when they arrive. Each of their passports have been stamped and an "x" was drawn across the marking.
The friends are waiting to receive confirmation frmo authorities in Ireland that they will be allowed into the country before they head back over the Atlantic.
“As much as we are excited about going back we need to make sure that we are allowed. I’m just waiting from an answer from immigration on that one,” said Zwirko.
“I just can’t wait to get back to the good stuff. To see the beautiful countryside and all that.”