Second Fáilte Ireland board member resigns after foreign holiday

Breege O’Donoghue steps down after travelling to Spain during the summer

A second member of Fáilte Ireland's board has resigned after it emerged that she went to Spain on holidays during the summer despite the Government advising against non-essential travel to the country.

The Irish Examiner reported on Tuesday that Breege O'Donoghue went on holiday to her second home in Marbella, Spain for a week in July and another week in August.

Ms O’Donoghue is the former executive director of the Primark retail giant at its Dublin offices. She retired from the role in 2016.

Spain is not on the Government’s “green list” of countries, and current health advice urges members of the public to avoid all non-essential travel there.

Last month, the chairman of Fáilte Ireland Michael Cawley resigned from his position after it emerged he was on a family holiday in Italy at a time when the State agency was encouraging people to have staycations.

In a statement on Tuesday evening, Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht Catherine Martin said she has accepted the resignation of Ms O'Donoghue following confirmation that she travelled abroad during the summer.

Ms Martin said she was aware of the “devastating impact” that Covid-19 restrictions have had on the tourism and hospitality sector, and she was “disappointed” to learn that a second member of the board had travelled abroad, “notwithstanding Government advice”.

"In order to support our own industry, and in line with the prevailing Government health advice, Fáilte Ireland has been to the forefront in promoting domestic holidays," she said.

“Ultimately, staying at home supports our tourism industry at a devastating time, showing solidarity in the face of a pandemic that is costing lives and livelihoods across Ireland and the world.”

The Minister said she rang Ms O’Donoghue on Tuesday evening and accepted her offer of resignation.

“I wish to thank Ms O’Donoghue for her service as a member of the board of Fáilte Ireland and her important contribution to the work of promoting tourism in Ireland during this time,” she said.

“I have accepted her resignation as I believe it would not be tenable for her to continue in the role, given all of the circumstances.”

Ms Martin said she had arranged a meeting with the board of Fáilte Ireland “at the earliest opportunity”, at which, she says, she would make clear that “members of the board are expected to show leadership during this time of unprecedented crisis in the sector which they represent”.

In addition to her work at Primark, Ms O’Donoghue has held board positions with State companies including An Post and Aer Rianta and was Chairwoman of the Labour Relations Commission for seven years.

In 2016, she was awarded the Chevalier (Knight) of the Ordre National de la Legion d’Honneur, which was presented to her by then French president Francois Hollande.