Irish-American journalist Dave Hannigan has landed himself in hot water for remarks he made about both the Irish heritage certificates and about Killarney.
In short, the Long Island based writer called the heritage certs a “money grab sponsored by Dail Eireann,” and called Killarney, County Kerry a tourist-trap rip-off.
Kerrymen from Catherdaniel to Ballybunion reacted with predictable ire to the piece, which appeared in the Irish Mail on Sunday. “Hannigan owes Killarney an apology” harangued one local businessman, while the local rep of the Irish Hotels Federation called Hannigan’s column “cheapskate and cheap shot journalism that reflects no credit on the journalist who penned it or the paper that published it." Ouch!
The column, fortunately, is full of little gems which have annoyed Kerrymen because they’re true, well made, and show the heritage cert scheme for exactly what it is, while taking a swipe at good ol’ Killarney at the same time!
"Bad as it is when avaricious shopkeepers and publicans try to take advantage* of sentimental old fools trying to get in touch with their ancestral roots,” says the journalist, “how much worse is it when the money-grab is sponsored by Dáil Éireann?"
Hannigan then categorizes the whole scheme as: "the shameless spectacle of a government department basically turning itself into the bureaucratic equivalent of Killarney."
I think the point is very valid. Writing for my blog on IrishCentral.com, I tentatively hinted at that point, though didn’t express it as bravely or eloquently as Dave Hannigan did.
One feature of the certificates seems to be that they’ll make their holders eligible for a variety of discounts including reduced airfares to Ireland.
It’s hard to see Ireland’s economic collapse and ebbing tourist trade as a happy co-incidence in all this.
Call me cynical, but part of me thinks that one of the main reasons, perhaps even the main reason, for issuing the Certificates was to provide a boost to our economy and tourist trade.
That’s how I put it. What I should have done was explicitly say that the proposed scheme sounds like a money-making operation for the government, hoping to use a discount to lure Americans to part with their cash in places.
Hannigan’s incisive piece merely says two things. First, that the government-pushed ‘heritage certificate’ scheme is merely a thinly-disguised money-making rackiet being pushed by an increasingly desperate tourism industry to try and lure Americans to Ireland. And secondly that it’s comparable in its appetite for tourists’ cash to the town of Killarney. And for making those two valid points Hanigan has nobody to apologize to.
Killarney is a tourist trap and we all know it is. American’s know it before they go there and buy the ridiculously overpriced merchandise, while its name is synonymous in Ireland with tourism. Yet what harm comes of this. It benefits the local economy and Americans seem to have a great time, so everyone comes out smiling.
Kerry “businessmen” demanding an apology and making comments like "This is the same kind of nonsense we have listened to for years and it all gets a little bit tiring after a while” is a bit hypocritical to say the least. Tourism is by far the largest industry in Killarney and it would be apparent to all but the most naive that a large part of that thriving industry is built on the back of charging the “Yanks’ an extra few quid here and there for some cuddly leprechaun toys.
Yet Americans love coming to Ireland, the Irish love hosting them, and no bad comes of it. Any tourist trap has its tourist spots. Walk up to Times Square and you’ll find plenty of overpriced ‘I Love NYC’ merchandise, yet how many oversensitive New Yorkers would be offended and demand an apology if you called some of the shops there rip-offs!?
The Kerrymen angrily calling for an apology need to take a reality check and realize that Killarney is indeed in large parts a rip-off and then realize that a large part of their income is probably derived either directly or indirectly from American tourists in the first place!