‘Loo with a View’ may revert to a Public Convenience

This is perhaps one of the strangest headlines we have ever penned but bear with us – it will make sense. At the very height of the property boom in Ireland a decade ago even the most obscure, tiny, or ridiculous piece of land was fetching equally ridiculous prices. The huge punt on the old ‘Glass Bottle’ factory site in Ringsend is perhaps the most infamous of these property gambles, tumbling as it did in value from 411 Million Euro to an estimated 40 Million Euro today. It is currently an unused field.

But perhaps the full extent of our collective madness was demonstrated by the purchase of a tiny plot of land that was home to a toilet, overlooking the promenade at Lahinch. 400,000 euro was paid (over US$550,000) for what became known as ‘the Loo with a View’. Plans to develop the site came to nothing and it looks like the Council may buy back the plot to provide restroom facilities for visitors to the popular Lahinch beach.

Obviously the situation is getting critical with local politicians getting ever more agitated by the lack of action:

Councillor Bill Slattery:
I am very frustrated with the situation. Nothing has been done by Clare County Council or Fáilte Ireland. The criticism that we are getting in Lahinch because of the lack of toilets is unreal. We can’t walk down the promenade without being criticised. We have no public toilets in Lahinch and I think that is an absolute disgrace.

Irish Tourists Arrested for Watching a Game of Bingo in Portugal

The desire to stamp out illegal gambling in Portugal seems to have taken a bizarre turn. A group of 28 British and Irish tourists were arrested by Portuguese police for being in a bar where a game of bingo was taking place.

Irish Tourists were among those arrested for playing Bingo in Portugal

Under Portuguese law any gambling, even bingo, needs to have an appropriate licence. The first game of bingo had concluded when the police swooped on the bar, arresting those present, regardless of whether or not they were actually participating in the game.

The owner of the Yorkshire Tavern is Marianne Pittaway:
“It is crazy, an absolute joke. We were playing bingo for biscuits, chocolate and some alcoholic drinks. There was no money exchanged apart from paying for the ticket. The money we make pays for prizes.

Everyone in the bar who was playing bingo was handed a 300 Euro fine plus a three-month suspended sentence. Those who were in the bar but not playing were given a 150 Euro fine plus a three-month suspended sentence. I was given a €700 fine and a four-month suspended sentence and [partner] António was given a 500 Euro fine and a four-month suspended sentence.”

The incident has the potential to be a public relations disaster for the Portuguese tourist industry. While it is reasonable of course for the Portuguese to enforce their laws it is perhaps counter-productive of them to target holiday-makers for such a minor infraction, especially as these are the same tourists who are bringing much needed finance into the local economy.

Portugal is in receipt of 78 Billion Euro EU/IMF/ECB loans following the collapse of its property market. Unemployment in Portugal in the first quarter of 2013 was 17.7%, as reported by the Instituto Nacional de Estatistica.

Scaring tourists away is hardly going to help that number.

by Michael Green
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‘Quiet Man’ Pub Sold To Film Fan

The Irish country village pub made famous by the film ‘ The Quiet Man’ starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara has been sold to an English fan of the film.



The bar is located in Cong in County Mayo, deep in the heart of Connemara and is reported to have sold for close to the asking price of 300,000 euro (US$385,000). The bar is central to the famous fight scenes between Sean Thornton (John Wayne) and Squire ‘Red’ Will Danaher (Victor McLaghlen). The fight meandered its way through the local fields, into the town and back out into the streets again with the protagonists eventually succumbing to the drink they had take in the bar before falling home to be served their tea by Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara).

Sean Thornton: (loudly)
Woman of the house! I brought the brother home to supper!

Mary-Kate: (gently)
He’s kindly welcome.

Will Danaher: (meekly)
God bless all in this house.

Mary-Kate: (scolding)
WIPE YOUR FEET!



The film revolves around Sean Thornton who has returned to his homeland from America. His arrival causes quite a stir among the locals. He courts and eventually marries Mary-Kate Danaher but their marriage gets off to a rocky start when Thornton refuses to extract a dowry from his wife’s brother, entitled as she knew she was to it. Eventually a brawl erupts between Thornton and Danaher with a satisfactory outcome for all concerned.

The film has been criticized for parodying Irish country people and especially for its portrayal of stereo-typical Irish characters who seem to embody just about every cliche possible.

But it is precisely this characteristic that gives the film its charm and humour. Barry Fitzgerald as the local matchmaker is a constant source of amusement as he plots and schemes his way through the various village dramas.

Interest in the film has never abated. Guided tours of the Cong area are available to eager tourists who are shown the original locations where many of the movie scenes were shot. There is even a ‘Quiet Man Cottage Museum’ for those who really want to get into the experience.

At the time of John Ford’s film in 1952 the pub building was actually used as a shop but was re-opened as a pub in 2008. Now it has been sold again to another ‘outsider’ – hopefully he will have less trouble in the village than Sean Thornton did!

by Michael Green
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Rip-Off-Ireland Shedding Its Expensive Image

The perception that Ireland had become a very expensive country – a rip-off Republic – emerged during the Celtic Tiger boom era of the 1990s and early part of the current century.


Photo From Free Public Domain Photographs

With near full employment (only 4% unemployment at the height of the prosperity – now unemployment is over 14%), staff could afford to pick and choose their jobs, pushing up prices, offering poor value, inflating business costs.

How things have changed. With the Tiger slain the economic crisis that nearly sank the country in 2008 and 2009 has seen earnings plummet, taxes spiral upwards while employment opportunities have disappeared. The result for the Tourist Sector of the Irish Economy has been predictable. Widescale closures of Hotels and Golf Courses throughout the country while the devastating reduction in the standard of living for employees has meant that jobs have become cherished, meaning better customer service and value.

A 2009 Bord Failte survey of visitors to Ireland revealed that as many as 41% of Tourists felt that holidaying in Ireland was too expensive. The most recent survey has seen this figure plummet to 17%.

So what is happening?

Well the first thing that can be said is that with the devastation in the Hotel sector those who remain standing are having to offer ever more enticing deals and room rates to their visitors. Where this has resulted in more people through the Hotel lobby the staff in the hotels are now required to offer better service, and cheaper too.

An increase in advertising by the Irish Tourist agencies with promotions such as ‘The Gathering’ have also helped to drive more visitors into Ireland, whose Dollars and Pounds are going further, a lot further than before. The Currency Exchange rate with the US Dollar has helped too. The Greenback has recovered from the 1.60 ceiling it nearly shattered last year to the 1.30 level it occupies today. It is clearly more affordable and a better overall experience to visit Ireland during its financial humbling.

Visitors from America seem to agree. The Bord Failte survey cited over 50% of visitors from the US as indicating that their visit ‘exceeded their expectations’.

Nothing like a bit of austerity to focus the minds of business owners and staff alike!

by Michael Green
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Saint Patrick’s Day Traditions

The Wearing of the Green

The tradition of wearing Shamrock to celebrate Saint Patrick seems to date from the seventeenth or eighteenth century. This was a very turbulent time in Irish history. The suppression of the Gaelic way of life by the ruling British invaders resulted in many aspects of the Catholic religion in Ireland being forced underground. Strict laws were enforced which prevented the Catholic population from attending schools so ‘hedge-schools’ were operated in secret.

Shamrocks - one of the symbols of Ireland

These were schools run outdoors in secluded places (sometimes literally ‘under a hedge!). The teaching of religion was also forbidden so it is only to be expected that teachers would use naturally available resources to inform their pupils. Thus the Shamrock plant was used to illustrate the message of the Christian Holy Trinity.

Saint Patrick was credited with using the Shamrock in such a manner so the wearing of the Shamrock by the oppressed Catholic population became a means of demonstrating their defiance to the ruling British class. It also imbued a sense of kinship among the native Gaelic people, differentiating them from their oppressors.

Wearing a clump of Shamrock is now a firmly established tradition throughout the world to celebrate not just Saint Patrick but Ireland itself. The Shamrock symbol is widely used by businesses seeking to associate with Ireland and, along with the Harp, is perhaps the single most recognisable symbol of Ireland. It is a shame though that the Shamrock is not a blue plant as the color originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue!

Saint Patricks’s Day Parade

Saint Patrick’s Day is unique in that it is celebrated worldwide. It is most unusual that a country has such an international celebration and is really evidence of the generational effects of emigration that has afflicted Ireland for centuries. After the 1845 to 1849 Irish Famine emigration soared with as many as a million native Irish leaving their homes in the decades after the famine to settle in places like Boston, New York, Newfoundland, Perth, Sydney and beyond. The US Census Bureau now reports that 34 Million US Citizens claim Irish descent. Most emigrants like to commemorate their heritage and thus the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade came into being.

Saint Patrick's Day Parade, New York, 1909

The earliest record of a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade was in the year 1762 when Irish soldiers serving in the British Army held a Parade in New York City. Earlier records suggest that the day was celebrated by the Irish in Ireland as early as the ninth and tenth centuries.

Again, this was a very difficult time in Irish history with Viking raiders terrorizing the native Gaelic population. It is thus no surprise then that in times of strife the local population would turn to religion and to a commemoration of their own heritage and individuality – a practice that has been repeated by populations of troubled places since the dawn of time. The New York Parade is now the longest running civilian Parade in the world with as many as three Million spectators watching the Parade of over 150,000 participants.

Saint Patrick's Day Parade, Dublin

The first official Parade in Ireland was in 1931. The 1901 law that copper-fastened March 17th as an Irish national holiday was later amended to insist that public houses close down on the day. This restriction was later lifted in the 1970’s. In the mid 1990’s the Irish Government really started to promote the event when it changed from a single day’s Parade into a 5-day festival attracting as many as a million visitors into the country. Parades are now held in just about every major city in the world with the biggest in several US cities reaching epic proportions.

Chicago River on Saint Patrick's Day

Greening of Rivers and Buildings

The use of the color green reached new heights (or plunged new depths!) when in 1962 the city of Chicago decided to dye part of the Chicago River green. Since then the campaign to have just about every possible landmark turned green for the day has taken off in earnest and in recent years has included the Irish Parliament building, the Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls and even the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt!

A Pint of Plain

The Irish association with drinking is well known and not always positive. Fortunately there are plenty of examples of the appropriate use of alcohol and Saint Patrick’s Day is one of them. It is a widely held tradition in Ireland that beer or whiskey can be taken on Saint Patrick’s Day although native Irish pub-goers can only look on aghast as visitors top the heads of their creamy pint of Guinness with a green Shamrock. Sacrilege! It is estimated that as many as 13 Million pints of Guinness are consumed on Saint Patrick’s Day, up from the usual 5.5 Million per day!

Saint Patrick's Day Girl

Dressing Up

The tradition of dressing up in Irish outfits is not just confined to participants in Parades. Jovial creatures of Irish origin the world over use the opportunity of Saint Patrick’s Day to dress up as Leprechaun or even as Saint Patrick himself. Kids love to wear the big green, white and orange hats and receive sweets thrown to them by similarly clad operators of the various Parade floats.

The Saint Patrick’s Day Dinner

Corned beef and cabbage is as traditional and Irish meal as you will ever find and it is often hauled out for Saint Patrick’s Day. Traditional Irish music in the background and a family gathering are other Irish Saint Patrick’s Day traditions that have been going on for centuries.

by Michael Green
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Blow to Economy as Tourists from Britain Desert Ireland

The number of visitors from Britain has fallen by as many as a Million visits since 2007 when 3.7 Million trips from Britain to Ireland were recorded.

Six short years ago Ireland was a very different place. The ‘Celtic Tiger’ still stalked the land although his days were numbered. A property market collapse and financial ruin were just around the corner. Britain suffered its own recession too but was spared the carnage caused by the banks that Ireland suffered. Against this backdrop it is perhaps no surprise that visitors from our closest neighbour have decided to opt for sunnier climes.

The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) are doing everything they can to reverse the trend but are not helped by the high costs they face in running their businesses. Commercial Rates are effectively an extra big tax on their income. Many Hotels are also suffering negative equity in respect of the development of their Hotel property after the market collapsed in 2008. Consequently Hotel rates in 2012 were at their highest level since 2008 according to a Hotels.com survey.

Killarney at 101 euro per night was listed as the most expensive destination for Hotel rooms where the country averaged 90 euro per night. Irish Hoteliers are not at all happy with the survey though, claiming that the cost of rooms has been greatly reduced in recent years despite persistently high costs and that Ireland compares favourably to most other popular European destinations.

Tourism is vitally important to the Irish economy accounting for 5.3 Billion Euro in revenue and employing 11% of the entire workforce of the country.

by Michael Green
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Unexpected Chinese Boost for Irish Tourism

In the wake of the unexpected blossoming of the Irish whale-watching business the Irish tourist industry is today celebrating another notable boost.

In a surprising boost for Irish tourism the Chinese ‘Oriental Morning Post’ newspaper has declared that Ireland is the world’s best travel destination. A poll conducted by the newspaper was announced at the ‘World Travel Awards’ in Shanghai. The vote of confidence for the Irish tourist experience follows on from the 2012 ‘most charming destination’ award from the Beijing ‘Life Style’ magazine.



As many as two million Chinese tourists visit Europe every year but clearly Irish Tourist businesses want to attract more than the 10,000 Chinese visitors that arrived in 2011. Perhaps the fact that Ireland is located at the very edge of the continent has played some part in the relatively few Chinese visitors over the years. It is hoped that a new visa waiver scheme that has been introduced for Chinese visitors will greatly boost the numbers that visit the shores of the Emerald Isle.

Late last year the Chinese celebrity couple Zhao Ruo Hong and Zhao Yan from Shanghai made the headlines in their native land when they visited Ireland on their honeymoon. Zhao Ruo Hong is vice-president of China’s first wedding website. Zhao Yan is a famous detective writer. Their tour of the Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College, The Book of Kells and then the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry read like a travel brochure for Irish tourist chiefs who were clearly delighted to welcome such a high-profile celebrity endorsement.

By Michael Green
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Whale-Watching Season begins off Irish Coast

Perhaps it is a sign of global warming or maybe it is just the natural cycle of the seas but in recent years an unlikely tourist activity has begun in the Irish sea: Whale-Watching.

Several humpback and fin whales have arrived in Irish waters about 5km from the County Wexford coastline. An abundance of herring fish in the area has attracted the massive creatures with a ‘super-pod’ of dolphins also being reported.

The arrival of the whales is sure to boost the local economy with fishing and tourist boats able to bring visitors and photographers out onto the water for a close-up view.

The photo shown here is from the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group at iwdg.ie where you can find out more about Ireland’s newest tourist attraction.

By Michael Green
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