Ex-Fáilte Ireland chair’s reputation has been ‘traversed’ – TD

Covid-19 committee chair Michael McNamara says Ireland entering period of ‘hysteria’

Michael Cawley tendered his resignation as chairman of Fáilte Ireland. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Michael Cawley tendered his resignation as chairman of Fáilte Ireland. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times


The reputation of former Fáilte Ireland chair Michael Cawley has been “traversed” and Ireland is entering a “period of hysteria”, the chair of the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee has said.

Independent TD Michael McNamara said it appeared to him that Mr Cawley did not breach travel advice.

Mr Cawley resigned his position on Saturday after he admitted to holidaying in Italy at a time when Fáilte Ireland is strongly encouraging Irish people to stay in Ireland for their holidays.

“I read the travel advice three times yesterday and it’s very unclear to me whether he breached the travel advice or whether he didn’t,” Mr McNamara said.

Italy is on the Government’s so-called “green list” of destinations for foreign travel, meaning normal precautions apply to travel there, with no period of restricted movement expected for those arriving into the State from there.

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs continues to advise against non-essential travel overseas.

“It appears to me that he didn’t breach it [the travel advice],” Mr McNamara said.

“There is a court case going on at the moment where Ryanair is suing the State and the State is saying it’s only advice ... there are no consequences if you breach it,” he said.

“We are hearing his reputation traversed on the radio this morning.

“Are we saying because as the chair of Fáilte Ireland he shouldn’t holiday abroad, or are we saying because he is Irish he shouldn’t holiday abroad,” Mr McNamara queried when speaking on RTÉ.

“We are imposing much more strict and draconian restrictions on our citizens than any other place in the European Union.

“We are entering into a period of hysteria because cases are rising in Ireland as they are in every other country. The real metric of this is like other countries, in the UK and Europe, where detected cases are rising, thankfully hospitalisations are not rising and that was confirmed yesterday evening and thankfully our deaths are not rising.”

Mr McNamara said his advice to the general public on foreign travel is to “follow medical advice”.

Travel to Italy

Mr Cawley received a telephone call from Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin on Saturday morning after news of him holidaying in Italy emerged.

She said afterwards she “was disappointed to learn that the chair of Fáilte Ireland was holidaying in Italy. I rang Mr Cawley this morning and he has offered his resignation which I have accepted.

“While Italy is on the green list, meaning that people who return from there do not have to restrict their movements, the Government has called on people to avoid all non-essential travel. Many of our citizens and residents have followed this guidance at some personal and financial cost to themselves,” she added.

In a statement on Saturday afternoon Mr Cawley said it was with great regret that he had tendered his resignation.

“I am on a pre-arranged family holiday in Italy, which is on the Government green list. As I have no wish to allow this issue to become a distraction from the important work of Fáilte Ireland in rebuilding the Irish tourism industry, I have decided after six years in the position to step down. I fully support the Government’s policy on tourism and I will continue to help the industry emerge from its current difficulties. It has been a privilege to serve as chair of Fáilte Ireland and to have contributed to the massive growth which Irish tourism has enjoyed prior to this global pandemic,” he said.

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