Rarely has a story ignited such different opinions as the one about the three Texas kids who were turned away by immigration in Ireland because they did not have a Dublin address, but arrived back into Ireland on Tuesday to a hero’s welcome.
IrishCentral.com has received huge numbers of emails from Americans and others who take sides on this question. They reveal, perhaps, a deep sense of conflict about what the Irish and American relationship is really about.
The three, Colin Zwirko, 21, Gavin Sides, 19, and Ben Whitehurst, 21, arrived in Dublin on July 3 intending to make Ireland the first stop on a year-long trip across Europe.
An immigration officer grew suspicious of them because they did not have an address in Dublin and sent them back home, forcing them to spend precious funds on immediate return tickets.
Back in America their story soon became known, and CBS News among others featured a lengthy piece on them.
Opinion in the Irish-American community seems evenly divided between those who felt they were very hard done by, and those who believe the immigration officer acted correctly.
On our website Irish Canuck wrote, “I am certainly happy for those young men and I hope that they enjoy their trip to a beautiful country. It doesn't surprise me that the misunderstanding was fixed; there are no better people on the planet than the Irish.”
Madokeith wrote, “Now, that is Irish hospitality for you! A sad situation has been made so much better by the good people of Eire. The boys will hopefully learn a lesson about traveling into other countries, and they will be able to experience more than they had planned.
“My hat's off to all who have reached out to make these American boys welcome. Hopefully all learned a valuable lesson! Blessings to you good people!”
However, others disagreed. San Antonio Brendan wrote, “I'd be interested in seeing the follow-up to this story, but based on what I've read here, and having experience traveling into Ireland, I'd have to agree with the immigration officer. The officer was not receiving clear answers to the questions, and the boys should have prepared better for this, too!”
Irish Fez wrote, “Ah come on now. We all know they were being cheeky and over-confident. I can just imagine them. Thinking, ‘It's only Ireland.’ ‘We are American.’
“And they are obviously downplaying their answers in this interview. Who is your friend? ‘A person.’ Come on! They were being rude and disrespectful frat boys who deserved a rude awakening. Congrats to the official.”
Those who side with the young men say that they were clearly three kids on a backpacking holiday, they had arranged to contact someone who would get them accommodation and that they were like tens of thousands of others who travel to Europe, starting in Ireland, every year, in search of adventure and experience.
The other side believes that the immigration officer, similar to any officer here in the U.S., was definitely within her rights to refuse them entry if they had no forwarding address. In this day and age of global terrorism a country can never be too careful.
The Irish people themselves appear to have spoken out in clear fashion. They believe the young men were wronged, and an outpouring of Irish hospitality has since become evident. They are now receiving free meals, accommodation and many other comforts to make their stay enjoyable.
I agree with the Irish people that the immigration officer acted way too hastily. Sure, they were not well dressed, had no forwarding address and were clearly backpackers -- but they were certainly not terrorists.
At a time when Ireland needs every American tourist it can get, it was a very strange move to forbid the men entry based on a spurious reason that they had no direct address.
One of the young men showed his online bank account with over $10,000 in it. That should surely have been enough to satisfy the immigration officer.
All is well that ends well, however, and the young men deserve the great welcome they got.
First off the mark was Anthony Kelly of D4 Hotels, which has given the trio an all-expenses trip to make up for the "misunderstanding."
"They got to get a massive Irish welcome... we are delighted to have them here,” he said.
Good for Kelly and good for the boys. They deserved a huge Cead Mile Failte in my opinion.