Northern Ireland news

State papers: 1995 all-Ireland tourist drive angered Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson condemned the NITB for its intention to pursue an all-Ireland strategy
Éamon Phoenix

THE idea of selling the island of Ireland as a `single destination' was sharply criticised by the DUP’s deputy leader Peter Robinson.

The shared vision and strategy was the focus of a series of meetings involving Bord Fáilte and the NI Tourist Board (NITB) in the aftermath of the 1994 paramilitary ceasefires.

As early as January 31 1995, Perry McDonnell of the Department of Economic Development at Stormont met his opposite number in the Department of Tourism and Trade in Dublin, John Dully to discuss north-south tourism cooperation.

As well as joint marketing of the island, they discussed accessing funding from the EU.

In a follow-up letter to Mr Dully on March 10, 1995, Mr McDonnell wrote: "I believe both departments are convinced that the tourism industry in Ireland is capable of making a greater contribution to the economy, particularly in terms of increased revenue and added employment."

By May 25 1995, Mr McDonnell could inform the Chief Executive of the NITB Ian Henderson that their vision was "for the island of Ireland to be a distinctive first preference" for visitors.

The department was seeking "full cooperation between all involved in tourism, north and south, respect for cultural diversity and a strong island of Ireland identity".

These developments, however, did not appeal to Peter Robinson, who in a August 31 statement condemned the NITB for its intention to pursue an all-Ireland strategy.

The east Belfast MP claimed that there were "important political implications" and that the benefit of "all Ireland involvement" would be extremely marginal to the north.

In particular, he accused the NITB of "pandering to the government's plans for an all-Ireland approach...by its new logo of a shamrock and a red leaf in the centre".

In a "restrained" reply, the NITB stated that it had been working with its southern counterpart for many years and since the ceasefires, this cooperation had increased and included "marketing the whole of Ireland as one destination".

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