Tourism: Ireland is not exotic enough…

It seems Ireland is losing its other worldliness and the tourists don’t like it.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Keith M

    This is bound to happen. Our cities centres are becoming full of the shops which make us look like any other British or European city, our “traditional” bog roads are being replaced by new top quality roads, we are seeing an influx of immigrants diluting our “Irishness” (not necessarily a bad thing). Given the cost of living here, we’re going to lose market share in international tourism.

  • Betty Boo

    You seem to be in the bad habit of tearing down your heritage for modern structures and when ever you find a new historical site you build a road on top of it.
    Same here in the Republic. So many places saturated in history that makes one turn green with envy, but nothing to see. Showing visitors around is a very embarrassing task.

  • Nestor Makhno

    I often wonder at the wisdom of NITB’s campaign to get people to visit Belfast for UK short breaks to shop. The TV ad features lots of shots of our city centre – Debenhams, Boots, Marks and Spencers… Hardly a major draw for anyone for anywhere else in the UK.

    (Ok – so there’s also an attempt to make Belfast look like a major clubbing experience – but frankly it’s a bit daft and an embarrassing.)

    If you examine the over-hyped story around the vast increase in tourists to Belfast you will see that most of the increase appears to be due to the way the figures are recorded. (For example, if I drive up to Belfast from Magherafelt to see my aunt, I’m classed as a day tourist. Hardly…)

  • Crataegus

    Given a choice between Killarney and the Swiss alps which would you choose. Switzerland in my recent experience offers better value, is cleaner, trains run on time and you don’t get accosted by drunks. In addition the scenery and climate are better. So if Switzerland gives better value Turkey is a bargain. Ireland is becoming too expensive.

    We should look at how our continental colleagues cater for tourists, the signposted walks and cycle routes, the multi lingual announcements on trains and buses, the restoration of ancient monuments, the clean environment. In Ireland we are on a par with the attitude of the stereotype French Waiter.

  • Kathy_C

    Hi all,

    I think another factor in the lower numbers of tourist is due to donaldson. For years his campaign in the US has turned off alot of Irish Americans…in fact his campaign(now that we know he was a informer for the brits) his campaign treated American Irish with disdaine and alot of those following his lead, say how the Danny Morrison bulletine board treated Americans….have espeically the Irish Americans who would have come…figure…why? The Irish aren’t treating the disporia well…why go and give them our money…..

  • George

    Tourist numbers up 5% in 2005. More Europeans coming and less Americans, who have been coming less and less since 2001. Don’t think it has anything to do with Donaldson, more with foreign travel.

    Danny is from the deep north and is not representative of this island. I also doubt if most of Irish America ever heard of him or his website.

    How have the Irish people not treated their diaspora in the US well?

  • SlugFest


    I’d say that, at the very best, only 15% of ‘Irish Americans’ have ever heard of Morrison OR Donaldson. Most Americans who claim Irish ancestry know very little, if anything at all, about Northern Ireland. And when it comes to the Republic, they have this reactionary picture of the ‘ol’ sod’ in their heads.

    Their disappointment in Ireland comes from the realization that the old sod they’ve been imagining doesn’t exist … and probably never did … not in Morrison or Donaldson.

  • Kathy_C

    Hi all,

    SlugFest, I agree that many don’t know Danny morrison…or care to know him…but the issue is really the attitude that has permiated from Ireland…SF…and even FF and FG…there is an attitude that the Irish in Ireland are better than the Irish in the disporia….as for Donaldson…don’t kid yourself…it’s news over here that SF had in it’s inner circle an informer…who was nasty to Americans who were pro-unification. He (donaldson) and his agenda had an impact. SF and those in Ireland who think and betray they are better…had an impact.

  • T

    Exactly, Slugfest. What draws me to visit and return not only to the Republic but also N.I. is mostly what it is today and what it may become. While an awful lot of people would decry, justifiably, some of the conditions on your island, I see great oportunity, hope and example for us all in what is transpiring there. Yes, I know, please excuse me now as I go to clean up my rose-colored glasses.

  • Brian Boru

    This is an indictment of multiculturalism. Mas immigration is indeed undermining the separate national identity of the Republic.

  • SlugFest


    Apologies for misleading you … I’m actually a member of the Plastic Paddy brigade (see below) :).

    But I very much agree with you … I don’t get to the South as often as i’d like, but i do go to Belfast at least once a year … love the city and love the people!


    I should have prefaced my last email with the fact that i’m Irish American (grandparents came over in a rush). Clearly, you are too. But the two of us (and any other Irish American who reads Slugger) are a subculture of the larger Irish American culture in that we know about (though God knows i’m still a student) and care about NI.

    Within that subculture, Donaldson’s big news. I know the story — Galvin and many others tried to alert SF in Belfast but their concerns went unheard etc. But outside of that subculture, most Irish Americans have never heard of him … or are able to understand just what a shock the whole thing was.

    The thing is, i’m not a big fan of my fellow Irish Americans. Most of them desperately cling to a persona that doesn’t really exist outside of their heads. Irish Americans, more than any other subculture in America save maybe Italian Americans, have a disturbingly odd need to claim a history that isn’t theirs. These ‘Irish Americans’ have been in the states for at least 100 years and have NO idea who their ancestors were or the true history of the island, either north or south. Yet they arrogantly (and sadly) cling to that island. I’ve seen many outright insult ‘real’ Irish folks who are over for a visit (or quietly staying in Woodside or the Bronx) … and they have no idea that they’re being insulting. Rather than the generic ‘Ugly American’, they’re acting the ‘Ugly Plastic Paddy.’

    As for members of SF, FF, and FG feeling that the Irish in Ireland are better than the Irish in the diaspora, would you not concede that the former are a heck of a lot more ‘Irish’ than the latter? I live outside NYC. When I hear a story about an ‘Irish’ person, I immediately ask the narrator “real Irish or fake Irish?” (you and I being the ‘fake’ Irish) to better interpret the story.

    I in no way mean to insult you – I’m not including you in my opinion of Plastic Paddys. But I’m sure you’ve witnessed, on more than one occasion, an Irish American unwittingly offending a true Irishman (or woman). Given the fact that the Celtic Tiger is so quickly changing the culture of Ireland and how much more ‘American’ (oh, I can see the grimaces now, folks!) Ireland is becoming, how would you feel if you happened upon a chap with a thick Leitrim accent telling you he’s American? Well, don’t the Irish have a right to get a bit perturbed with us for claiming we’re Irish?

  • lah dee dah

    Standing in a queue in the Kennedy space centre when one of the staff heard my accent and declared proudly that her great grandfather ran guns into Cork for the IRA. A proud boast?

    She made the mistake of believing the myth and legend rather than the reality. My sister in law believed we all lived in cottages and rode donkeys until her first visit here. It shows you the power of the pen and song etc. Republican interests have been peddling this for years to Americans for the mighty dollar.

    I never believed in the tourist payoff the peace process would bring to Northern Ireland. Beyond the morbid interest in the ‘Troubles’ sites / sights we’ll all have to don the shamrock green.

  • SlugFest

    lah dee dah,

    Ah yes … virtually every Irish American will boast of at least one 1920s-era gun runner in the family. What’s puzzling is that they all seem to boast about running the guns, but not about shooting the dang things. I guess all of themmuns that shot them stayed in Ireland.

  • Conor

    what i find insulting to us natives of this island is the fact that an american can claim to be ‘irish’ and this is never ever questioned. however, Irish men and women on this island have been told for generations that they indeed are not entitled to claim this nationality but rather have been forcefully told that they are ‘British’.

  • Yokel

    Come North..its a backward as ever……but I’d agree with Conor on one aspect..Irish American’s often really don’t get it at all and I find them irritating in the extreme. I have been known to point out to them that many Irish see them as a joke and the reaction wasn’t too great at all..

  • Kathy_C

    Hi all,

    SlugFest, I found your comments interesting and I have a few questions. When you stated I have probably seen an Irish American insulting a “true” Irishman/woman…. may I ask you…what is a “true” Irishman/woman.
    Is it a person who has been born in Ireland that makes them true…or a person who becomes an Irish citizen that makes them true….
    I know that the Republic of Ireland has a law to be a citizen you can have your grandparents be from Ireland…you can apply and voila-one is a citizen. So is that person a “true” Irish? or not.
    What about if your claim to Ireland goes back to all your great grand parents…does that make you True Irish?
    I’m currious to your answers. Thanks

  • SlugFest


    “may I ask you…what is a “true” Irishman/woman” …

    Someone who was born and bread in Ireland. Let’s face it – it’s a completely different culture than ours. There are a number of nuances within the Irish culture that just don’t exist in ours and that I myself would probably never be able to adjust to (think ‘Irish time’).

    “I know that the Republic of Ireland has a law to be a citizen you can have your grandparents be from Ireland…you can apply and voila-one is a citizen. So is that person a “true” Irish? or not.”

    Not. I’m trying for that very same citizenship not because I want to say I’m Irish but rather because it would allow me much more work and travel freedoms throughout the EU. I’m sure many Irish folk scoff at this, and I readily admit it’s a selfish reason, but there you have it. And a quick aside: even though all four of my grandparents were born and bred in Ireland, you’d be surprised how hard it is to track down all the paperwork!

    “What about if your claim to Ireland goes back to all your great grand parents…does that make you True Irish?”

    No! The only ‘true’ Irish, in my opinion, are those that were born and bred there. Again, it’s a very different culture. The thing about Irish Americans is they seem to assume that their particular American subculture is akin to Irishness … it’s not. What it is is an odd mix of mythology and subconscious need to belong to a culture that much of the world admires. It’s a longing for a sense of belonging to something that’s bigger than themselves.

    Now, as I said in my last post, you sound quite well-versed in NI politics and players. But do you not see that you’re the exception and not the rule? How many times have you run into Irish Americans boasting of their Irishness when they can’t even name the Taoiseach, let alone even know what the heck a Taoiseach is! It’s these very same Irish Americans who are the first to run up to someone in a pub once they hear an Irish accent and berate the poor guy (or gal) and tell them how they’re irish too!

    When relevant to a particular posting, I will define myself as ‘Irish American’ so that other readers may better understand where I’m coming from. I should also admit to having a strategically-placed Celtic Pagan tattoo – as far as I’m concerned, the Celtic Pagan history of our ancestors is as much mine as it is Bono’s. And I clearly have a fascination with all things NI, being a regular reader of Slugger and many other daily sites/blogs on the same subject. Does all that make me a hypocrite? Possibly … but then as far as I’m concerned, we’re all hypocrites to one degree or another … especially the Irish (don’t get me started on themmuns)!

    I look forward to your reply, Kathy. Have a good weekend!

  • Conor

    Why dont you just accept that your ‘just american’. i’ve never come across any other country where the citizens claim such dual nationalities as much as you americans. its ridiculous. ok, so way way far down the line theres someone blood related who emigrated from Ireland to the states. so what?! what makes you ‘guys’ in ANY way ‘Irish’? so you head out to a pub do you, and order a pint of ‘the black stuff’? sit up and listen to yourselves some time. i have to say, someone knocked it right on the head when he/she said that they find ‘Irish Americans’, ‘extremely irritating’. final note, why isnt it AT LEAST ‘American-Irish’?!

  • SlugFest


    That’s pretty much what i said in my postings, though in a far less unpleasant manner.

    Seems to me you need a pint of the black stuff yourself.

  • Careful SlugFest, if you keep up posting like that I might have to change my view that all Irish-Americans are living in some kind of fantasy world that makes them obnoxious!

  • SlugFest


    I promise you … there’s a few of us that get it.

    The thing that irks me, though, is we just can’t win. We’re constantly told by our fellow Americans that we’re Irish. At least that’s been my experience. I have a very Irish name and i’m ‘Black Irish’. You’d be surprised the comments i’ve gotten over the course of my lifetime, most of them seemingly in good nature but actually quite insulting, both to me and the ‘real’ Irish.

    It’s a Catch 22, i tell ya.

  • pk

    As I read the previous posts it occured to me that both sides have points. Those born in Ireland see themselves as different from the rest of the world (becoming more like the “average” european every day). America has been growing and changing through immigration since well before the famine times. I think Americans use the prefix’s of Irish, or Italian, or Polish because they have been raised in cultures which are sometimes more like their home lands than they are like the cultures of the neighbors across the street. When someone several generations removed for Ireland says that he/she is irish, they are not suggesting they would fit into Irish culture of modern or even some fantasy historical times. But since the states have not been such a homogeneous culture since the red coats left, it is merely a way of describing the american “subculture” they are part of.

    Although I listened to my grandfather tell about Ireland in the early 1900’s I never had much interest in Ireland until I recently met my cousins. I’m learning a lot and appreciate the chance to read Slugger. Well done.

  • barbara

    Here’s an anecdote for you. I once had to listen to several “Irish Americans” sitting in a hotel bar that my husband (Irish citizen thru marriage to this Dublin woman, Pakistani born, has lived in Ireland for years, father to my true-blue-Dub sons) isn’t really Irish. Whereas they (vanity passport, black and tan drinking, orginal shamrock tattoos) were!

    I rolled my eyes and left them to it.

  • PaddyReilly

    Slugfest, what is ‘Black Irish’? Doesn’t that mean you’re a black man with an Irish surname?

  • James D
  • Nathan

    Tourism Ireland concentrate their efforts on bringing people to Dublin, and as a result Dublin has had an uneven distribition of growth. No wonder then that some tourists are turned off by Ireland in general.

    Tourism Ireland needs to concentrate on other parts of the country in order to restore the balance. The west of Ireland for instance has a lot to offer – it has its own lake district for Anglers, and a few blue flag beaches for those summer months. It also has Ashford Castle, where you’ll be able to enjoy one of the finest culinary experiences in the world. The only problem is that it comes with a pricey tag so Ireland must rid itself of the pricey tag to lift tourist numbers.

  • SlugFest

    Paddy Reilly,

    Sorry, maybe ‘Black Irish’ is just an American term. At any rate, it’s a person that has extremely pale skin (any time i had to go to the infirmary in college for any reason whatsoever they insisted on testing me for mono :)), blackish hair and blue or green eyes. Supposedly it’s a remnant of the Spanish invasion all those years ago.

  • PaddyReilly

    Yep, that’s what the Wikipedia article says. I was confusing the term with Smoke Irish, I think.

  • SlugFest

    Paddy Reilly,

    Okay, now clue me in … ‘Smoke Irish’?

  • PaddyReilly

    The Smoke Irish, I was told (in Chicago), are the descendants of Irish indented labourers who married, or interbred with, Black Slaves on American Plantations. Or similar unions. Consequently they have dark skins, but Irish surnames.

  • PaddyReilly

    Cassius Clay aka Mohammed Ali is the great grandson of an Irishman. So his grandparent and possibly parent would qualify as Smoke Irish.

  • SlugFest

    Thanks, Paddy Reilly … i had no idea!

  • wild turkey

    As it was explained to me, by my Grandfather, “Black Irish” was a derogatory term for the Protestant Irish, insinuating that they were traitors to their religion and race, they where trying to be “English”.

    Please note grandpa was
    (a)living in america
    (b)highly sentimental
    (c) avid fan of the film quiet man
    (d)often pissed

    From reading Hunter Thompson (extract below), it appears the good doctor may also buy into this characterisation.

    Back to subject at hand?

    The decline in tourism from the USA has a lot to do with overall decline in americans visiting YERP.

    applying occams razor yields a simple equation

    (Low dollar vis a vis an expensive euro
    RAISED EXPOENTIALLY by outrageous irish price level)
    MULTIPLIED by shit weather index (high)
    EQUALS ireland is a soggy rip-off.

    The Politician and the Pawnbroker
    by Hunter S. Thompson:

    “Innocence? It is difficult even to type that word on the same page with Nixon’s name. The man was born guilty–not in the traditional Vatican sense of “original sin,” but in a darker and highly personalized sense that Nixon himself seems to have recognized from the very beginning.
    Nixon’s entire political career–and in fact his whole life — is a gloomy monument to the notion that not even pure schizophrenia or malignant psychosis can prevent a determined loser from rising to the top of the heap in this strange society we have built for ourselves in the name of “democracy” and “free enterprise.” For most of his life, the mainspring of Richard Nixon’s energy and ambition seems to have been a deep and unrecognized need to overcome, at all costs, that sense of having been born guilty– not for crimes or transgressions already committed, but for those he somehow sensed he was fated to commit as he grappled his way to the summit.

    If Nixon had been born Jewish, instead of Black Irish, he would probably have been a pawnbroker instead of a politician, not only because the suburbs of Los Angeles would never have elected a Jewish congressman in 1946, but because running a big-league pawnshop would have fueled him with the same kind of guilt-driven energy that most of our politicians– from the county assessor level all the way to the White House seem to thrive on.
    On any given morning, both the politician and the pawnbroker can be sure that by sundown the inescapable realities of their calling will have forced them to do something they would rather not have to explain, not even to themselves. The details might vary, but the baseline never changes: “I will feel more guilty tomorrow than I felt yesterday . . . . But of course I have no choice: They have made me what I am and by God, they’ll pay for it.”
    So the cycle runs on. Both the politician and the pawnbroker are doomed to live like junkies, hooked on the mutant energy of their own unexplainable addictions.

    – Hunter S. Thompson
    P. 375 The Great Shark Hunt
    Reprinted from Rolling Stone #174,
    October 10, 1974

  • Kathy_C

    Hi all,

    SlugFest, I view the world a wee bit differently. I see a citizen of a country is one who is either born in that said country OR is able to get citizenship by what ever means the country has to become a citizen. Now as to what is a TRUE Irishman or TRUE Irishwoman…I think it is the blood…or genetics. I feel I am a TRUE Irishwoman because of the blood ties I have to the IRISH Clan.
    It is true that many Irish Americans don’t know much at all about the current politics of Ireland. But, I think, Irish Americans do have a sense of the history. Such as the Irish having to leave Ireland due to the famine (some in my family) others having to leave due to economic reasons (again some in my family) and others who where tossed on a boat by the british (again some in my family).
    Now there was the Irish Geese as they are referred to…the Irish military leaders and fighters who were forced to leave Ireland by the british. Even in Riverdance…they have a segment attributed to the Irish Geese. Now because one was forced to leave Ireland by various reasons due to the british….does that make the descendants of these people LESS Irish because the british forced the family to relocate and the british allowed the families of those still in Ireland to stay and that makes them TRUE IRISH? Personally, I think the british where using the theory of ‘natural selection’ when they forced a majority of the best fighters out of Ireland. What has remained….in some ways a more passive ‘neutral’ society…. Just look at
    SF and how they don’t conclude the deal because the deal is one that will be hard fought…SF is more anxious to appease and accomadate….where as the Irish of the dispora…would be far more aggressive and less willing to give in and accomadate….At every time it was needed for SF to stand firm…they didn’t…they gave into the unionist….
    Just my thoughts…. and back to what is a True Irishman or True Irish Woman….I fell it’s me…..and I say this as a proud American citizen. :o)

  • wild turkey

    Kathy C

    ‘A few years ago there was a significant exchange between then-General Colin Powell and then-statesperson Madeleine Albright. Like so many civilians, she was eager to use our troops against our enemies: What’s the point of having all this military and not using it? He said, They are not toy soldiers.’

    Gore Vidal “We Are The Patriots,” The Nation, June 2, 2003

    Now why would the Irish of the dispora be far more aggressive and less willing to give in and accomadate? Hmm.
    Can’t figure that one out.
    Surely when the shit hit the fan in the 6 counties, the aggressive (and soldierly?) irish overseas personally experienced firsthand exactly same fallout, pain and grief that people here; individuals, families and communities, did.

    the assertion regarding the british practice of natural selection is one of the best examples i’ve run across that illustrates the limitations of applying social darwinism in political/historical analysis. but then again you could be correct. afterall if there is a segment in riverdance on the irish geese, your argument must have some validity.

    just my thoughts… as an american (neither proud or ashamed) who has lived in belshaft for close to 3 decades.

    enuf, i’m getting ready for the super bowl

  • Kathy_C

    Hi all,

    wild turkey, per the republic of Ireland…there are approx. 80 million people of the Irish diaspora living today. The british from Cromwell to the recent times…have had a policy of destroying Irish language, culture and in some cases…lives. A policy for generations of the brits has been to rid itself of troublemakers. Ergo if they weren’t killed…they(Irish) left on their own or forced to go and the more passive Irish were allowed to stay.
    There were many Irish fighters who went to Russia and were well thought of there. In Mexico a large contigent of Irish diserted from the US army(led by protestants) and joined the Catholic country in it’s fight for freedom. These men were the San Patricio’s and well honored and regarded by Mexico…a side note when the Mexicans surrendered the Irish were tried for defecting and 1/2 of them were executed by the US. Also a large group went to S. America. Argentina got a ton of immigrants and General John O’Connor who claimed to be a descendant of the last King of Ireland brought a bunch to Peru and was made minister of War in Bolivia.
    in 2002 a group of Argentineans with Irish great-grandparents attempted to register as Irish citizens but Ireland wouldn’t let them due to the third generation clause.
    What this demos’ is all over the globe the Irish of the dispora have been agressive as soldiers in various other countries…but they were of Irish blood that were forced out of Ireland by the brits…..Natural selection by the brits…leave the passive and get rid of the aggressors. Hitler had his final solution of the Jews…and the british have had their final solution of the Irish for generations.
    Now to current day….if Sinn Fein is so gifted…then they wouldn’t need the Irish of the diaspora in their fight to get the brits out. SF is always running over to the states, canada, australia getting support of the Irish because they can’t do it on their own. If they could with their egos’…they wouldn’t included the Irish disporia….because deep down I think there is a fear of the 80 million and how we can tip of the scales of Ireland.
    Also, the unionist and the especially paisly likes to say the IRA did their own funding and financed the war…yet we all know the major of it was financed by the disporia. The Irish left behind can’t and haven’t done it on there own. THat’s what I was referring to.
    enjoy the super bowl…as of now the team my nephew loves…Pittsburgh is winning.

  • Kathy_C

    Hi all,

    wild turkey, I thought of a great example….the On the Runs…..the IRA fighters…..the brit gov’t is doing EVERYTHING it can to keep them from coming back…why…because they are the aggressive fighters…and the brits don’t like aggressive fighters in Ireland…it goes against their natural selection process. In most cases when a war is over…the soldiers are allowed to return…but not in this case. Why? because england for centuries tries to rid the island of Ireland of aggressive fighters.

  • SlugFest

    Wild Turkey,

    “(Low dollar vis a vis an expensive euro
    RAISED EXPOENTIALLY by outrageous irish price level) MULTIPLIED by shit weather index (high)
    EQUALS ireland is a soggy rip-off.”

    Good point. But more importantly, they don’t know how to make a decent cup of coffee!!! I know there’s a Starbucks in Belfast now, but i just can’t bring myself to go in there, so i usually go to the little coffee kiosk by the post office. Could still use a stronger cup of coffee and i’ll be going back soon … any suggestions from a fellow American? Also, we’ve now got three different definitions of ‘Black Irish’ in this one thread … all i can say is i’m scary white and my mom always attributed that to the Spaniards (and she was never pissed!)

    Kathy _ C,

    I respectully suggest that we agree to disagree on this one!

  • Kathy_C

    Hi all,

    SlugFest,…ok…… :o)

  • Hi all.

    I remember seeing a programme called “Radharc” a few years back also mentioning about the Black Irish.
    It told the story of Montserrat, the Emerald Isle of the Carribbean, a country which has many similarities to our own. The shamrock is a national symbol, st patrick’s day is celebrated, the surnames there are ones like Murphy, Kelly, Sweeney, MCCarthy etc and there are place names like Cork and Kinsale.
    The majority of the island’s population are black people who are descendents of African slaves who mixed with many irish indentured servants and slaves, so it’s common to see light skinned black people with red hair etc, they also have a trace of a brogue with many of the cadences of West Cork.
    St Patrick’s day is celebrated on the island as the day when many of the landlords(who were Irish)used to get hammered drunk and one year the African slaves revolted and took over. From the images I saw on the TV it seemed to be a steel band type west-indian parade with harps and tricolours etc.
    Sure beats a wet drizzly Paddy’s day back in the ould sod.

  • James

    if all the aggresors left ireland to join the diaspora how is it the republic gained independence from Britain by fighting without them. As for modern day sinn fein being conciliatory, after 30 years of pointless violence they should be commended.

  • Brian Boru

    Blackpool-style theme parks would help. Pity plans for Vega City were blocked by fuddy-duddy councillors a few yrs back. 🙁