Despite the recession hitting all corners of Ireland in recent months, some county officials have decided to go ahead with scheduled visits to the U.S. for St. Patrick’s Day, while others have cancelled, citing financial cutbacks as the reason. Co. Meath councilor Jenny D’Arcy has come under fire from local and national media for her decision to accept an invitation by the New York Meath Association to join them in the city for St. Patrick’s Day. D’Arcy, who has been a member of the Meath County Council since 2004, told the Irish Voice that there was “some feelings expressed through local and national media” that public monies should not be spent on overseas travel given the Irish economic climate. D’Arcy, who was nominated to represent Meath County Council in New York during St. Patrick’s week in an effort to build on links with the Meath organizations in New York, said, “I feel that it is their democratic right to express those feelings. However, that should be done in a fair and balanced manner.” Despite what she terms a “very small, vocal minority,” D’Arcy has decided to come to New York and represent her county. “I have been encouraged to do so despite the media pressure, by my family, my colleagues and members of the public who have contacted me,” she said. “There are many many people who have family members living in New York who want to see Meath represented on St Patrick’s Day. I feel it is my duty to do so.” D’Arcy said the annual visit by a member of the council to New York has always been important and she feels that now, at a time when Ireland is suffering so bad, a visit is necessary to put the country back on the map. Out of a *117 million budget, there is *10, 000 allocated for international travel. D’Arcy’s trip, she says, is estimated to cost a little over *1,000. The mayor of Co. Longford, Sean Farrell, has cancelled his trip to New York citing the recession in Ireland and in his own county in particular as the reason. Farrell, who has been the mayor since June and has taken a 10% pay cut, told the Irish Voice on Monday, “I think with the economic climate here in Ireland the way it is, it was appropriate to cancel the trip. “It is giving a lead in difficult times here in Ireland. The exodus to New York in particular around St. Patrick’s Day has gone overboard and it’s simply not acceptable during this economic time.” Like all the county councils around Ireland, Longford Council has an international travel bursary. Although monies have been set aside for travel, Farrell feels a trip to New York during the St. Patrick’s season is “too costly.” Asked if he feels he is missing out on furthering the interest of his county by not coming, he said that several Longford mayors have been to New York in the past few years “and it does have some merit, there is no questions about it.” But, said Farrell, “I felt it wasn’t appropriate to travel at this time.” Kerry Mayor Tom Fleming, told the Irish Voice that a visit to New York during this turbulent economy is “especially important.” “A trip to New York is very important this year because of the way things are in Ireland with our banking relations getting such bad press internationally. Our creditably is at question here,” he said. Fleming, who will march under the Co. Kerry banner on St. Patrick’s Day, attend breakfast with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meet undocumented immigrants from Kerry and sit down with tourism interest groups during his visit, said that although the recession is a worldwide issue, he feels Ireland has been particularly hit hard in the fall out. “I think this visit is giving us an opportunity to more or less act in a positive manner. Ireland is going through a temporary change. We still have a good reliable county for outside investment and we have a wonderful tourism product,” he said. Fleming, who will be accompanied to New York by his wife (she will pay her own way) said if Co. Kerry wasn’t represented in New York on St. Patrick’s Day the County Council would be “letting down our immigrants and our Irish diaspora very much.”
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