Plenty of tourists means no room at the inn for Dingle workers

Town’s tradition of seasonal workers lured by a summer of work and fun is under threat

Axelle Lépée (23), originally from the Auvergne region of France, loves Dingle “énormément”, but is considering going home before her work term ends in September.

Dingle is booming. The town at the heart of the Corca Dhuibhne peninsula is jointed with tourists, some of whom have to stay as far away as Annascaul to get accommodation.

Thanks to Star Wars filming "back west" at Dunmore Head, huge exposure after the visit of BBC TV's Top Gear motoring show and a hot beginning to the summer, it is like an August Bank Holiday weekend every day in the town which has built its tourism on another film from half a century ago: Ryan's Daughter.

The scales have changed in Dingle - as tourism has grown, the traditional fishing industry has declined and morphed into Fungie boats and ecotourism.

But, this year, another Dingle tradition – that of the seasonal worker, attracted by a summer of hard work and plenty of fun – is under threat. Accommodation for staff is nowhere to be found, while shopfronts and cafés are littered with small signs saying: “Staff wanted”.


Spare rooms let

Tourist accommodation is also very limited. There are just three registered hotels and a handful of large guesthouses – and another factor is the emergence of Airbnb: practically every spare room now is let to tourists, such is the demand.

Gary Curran of the four-star guesthouse Greenmount House, which has welcomed stars from Julia Roberts to Sean Connery, says the problem in Dingle is deeper than seasonal accommodation for staff, and is now "all year-round".

Summer in Dingle has a long tradition of seasonal workers. Some are students, some are foreign nationals coming to work and to play.

“It’s a tradition in the town – people come in for the summer they have a good time and work and leave. Particularly students,” says Mr Curran.

Numbers at local schools are falling because families can’t find homes in the town. But the housing problem in Dingle seems to be ignored.“I’m sure Dublin will be sorted well before we are,” says Mr Curran.

Fáilte Ireland statistics of registered accommodation show the town itself has only 25 B&Bs with a total capacity of 104 rooms - there are only seven guesthouses and between them they have 71 rooms, while the three hotels registered with Fáilte Ireland have a total of 189 rooms.

This year the sale of a 60-house development at the top of John Street, which had been let for social housing and seasonal workers, but which went into receivership, has exacerbated the housing problem in Dingle.

It now lies empty.

Dingle has been busy since St Patrick’s Day, says Maire Treasa O’Shea, of Dingle’s OceanWorld Aquarium. “There is absolutely no staff accommodation,” she says, adding that it’s been difficult for years, but this year is the worst.

Lodging with relatives

Oceanworld has staff who have had to lodge with relatives – and one girl from France may leave because she cannot find somewhere suitable to stay.

Chris White (25), from Tralee, and a student at Carlow IT, is working two jobs for the summer in Dingle. "There is plenty of seasonal work – everyone is at least on the minimum wage, the pay is fine in Dingle and there's plenty of hours," he says. "The problem is nowhere to stay."

He has been searching since March and has ended up staying with an aunt.

It’s simply not feasible to travel in and out from Tralee.

Axelle Lépée (23), originally from the Auvergne region of France, loves Dingle "énormément", but is considering going home before her work term ends in September.

A student of tourism management in a Paris college, she has been attending IT Tralee as part of her degree and began working in Dingle in February. She is supposed to stay until September, but may not be able to do so.

Axelle has had to stay in a B&B, paying €84 a week, but can’t continue paying so much just for a room and needs more facilities.

She says she will be very sad to leave but doesn’t have a choice.