Seanad debates

Monday, 22 March 2021

Covid-19 (Tourism): Statements


10:30 am

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister and it is good to have her in the House. As we know, Ireland is known as the country of 100,000 welcomes and everyone is always happy to get céad míle fáilte when they come to Ireland or, indeed, if they are in Ireland and go to another part of it, so we are giving the Minister céad mile fáilte here today. She has come from her House to our House, which is actually her House.

In terms of the asks that I know we are going to ask of the Minister and the supports that have been given for the tourism industry, I know she recognises this is a vital industry in terms of providing full-time and part-time employment and, of course, giving people the opportunity to see the wonderful vistas and the different types of events and experiences we have here in Ireland. I know the Minister will not be surprised when I talk a little about the feast of offerings we have in Kildare. The Minister will in particular be familiar with those on the north side of the county but I am going to talk a little about the south side of the county. Many people travel through Kildare to get to Dublin or to leave Dublin and go either west or to the south. However, if they took the opportunity and the time to stay, either for a few hours or a few nights, they would find an absolute feast of events just to whet their appetite. When our restrictions are eventually lifted, the first thing most of us are looking forward to, apart from getting a haircut or a hairdo, is having the opportunity to travel to some wonderful places, such as Glendalough. I was very taken with Senator Casey's description of reading some of the recollections in the hotel over the years. I completely empathise with the situation of family-run hospitality establishments in particular, given how difficult things are.

Within my own 5 km, I am very lucky that I have the Curragh plains, which we would certainly be hoping will become a UNESCO site in time. Consultation has just started in regard to the future of the Curragh plains. That is going to be a very important piece because, obviously, it has a world of heritage, archaeology and biodiversity aligned with it. I am very lucky also to have the River Liffey, and Newbridge Tidy Towns has done wonderful work to ensure it is a very attractive place for us to go to. Pollardstown Fen and its wealth of biodiversity are also within my 5 km limit. Therefore, while I live in an urban town, I have the opportunity to explore all of those. Of course, when I can go beyond my 5 km, I can go to the greenways and the blueways, which have been an incredible boon to everybody, particularly during these Covid restrictions and Covid times.Obviously, however, we could do with more support for those amenities. One can go into Kildare town and to the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens. We are well known, in County Kildare, for our racing industry. I will take this opportunity to suggest that the Minister come down to Punchestown, the Curragh or Naas when racing returns. We have a wealth of places and lovely hotels, such as the Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge, in which the Minister can stay.

That aside, we have Killinthomas Wood outside Rathangan on the way to Lullymore peatlands park, as well as the heritage park. All these attractions have really suffered in the past 12 months in terms of people not being able to go to them. We are very lucky that work is continuing on a distillery just outside Monasterevin, which will be a tourist attraction beside Umeras Peatlands Park. We also have Newbridge Silverware, Kildare Village and the Curragh military museum. We have spiritual tourism and we are really looking forward to celebrating Saint Brigid. Many calls are being made to make her national day a national bank holiday. In 2024, there will, we hope, be a huge festival in Kildare to celebrate 2,000 years of Saint Brigid. Some of her remains are to be found out of this country, in Lisbon. We are hoping to bring them back. We will be looking to the Minister for some funding in that regard.

The Minister, therefore, can see by even just a few of the areas I mentioned that Kildare plays a significant role with regard to Ireland's Ancient East and tourism. The whole tourism and hospitality industry absolutely needs clarity, certainty and continuing supports. I thank the Minister and Fáilte Ireland for the supports that have been put in place. There is a need for them to continue and a need for certainty and clarity, however. We are all looking forward to having the opportunity to explore our country through staycations and domestic tourism. In 2019, domestic tourism accounted for almost €3 billion, which was on top of the €7 billion for overseas tourism. There are, therefore, a huge amount of opportunities for all of us to explore and support those who are local and national.


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