Connecting proud Dubs with new visitors has its risks


Under the ambassador plan visitors may hear interpretations of What Exactly Has Been Done To The Country, writes ANN MARIE HOURIHANE

CITY OF a Thousand Welcomes, eh? Well, I am ready to become a Dublin Ambassador: angry, congested and refusing to indicate under any circumstances. But enough about me, the tourist industry is in crisis. And the Dublin Ambassador project, started by Trevor White and Simon O’Connor, is a bright idea. Local volunteers meet visitors to Dublin and take them out for a pint or a coffee – whichever is cheaper on the day, presumably.

It seems that it is easy to become a Dublin Ambassador, and registration starts today. You just have to fill out a questionnaire on the website. Then you are vetted by the lovely Dublin gardaí.

Although I think the toughest part of the recruitment process is the final question about the name of the main road running through Phoenix Park. Surely the last people in Dublin who knew the answer to that were Nazi spies. “We connect first-time visitors with proud Dubliners,” says the website. This could go either way.

On the one hand, the first-time visitor and the proud Dubliner could become lifelong chums, exchanging Christmas cards into the middle of the century.

On the other hand, you could have an overly-proud Dubliner telling Dutch and French people about the cruelty of the British in 1916, as illustrated by the fact that the dastardly Brits kept heroic rebel prisoners out in Stephen’s Green overnight. I have heard exactly this historic slur proudly made by someone who was being paid by the Irish taxpayer. That was shortly before he claimed that Trinity College, the Bank of Ireland and the Customs House made up something called The Gandon Triangle. Sometimes you can be too proud, even as a Dubliner.

Under this scheme you could have a lot of first-time visitors sitting in bars with their ears blown back as they listen to our individual interpretations of What Exactly Has Been Done To The Country.

You could have proud Dubliners rehearsing our general election which, although undoubtedly fascinating, would be a very unusual entertainment for your average first-time visitor.

And there is the ever-present danger of Dublin taxi drivers. In fairness, Dublin taxi drivers have been operating their own version of for decades, and only recently started providing receipts.

Taxi drivers have been proud Dubliners for more years than they care to remember , particularly on their way in from the airport. It’s just that first-time visitors may not be ready for the labyrinthine saga of what has happened to the taxi business, and the nefarious doings of the Carriage Office, and how African drivers have ruined everything.

We’re friendly, though. Oh yes, and we are prepared to be very friendly indeed.

I’m not saying that we are even thinking about becoming a new hub of sex tourism but it is an economic fact that Dublin has a lot of hotel rooms to fill. And that there is very little we would not do in exchange for hard currency or a chance to renegotiate the debt.

However, I can confirm that rumours that proud Dubliners have been asked to submit their vital statistics and a full-length photo to Dublin Ambassador are unfounded, as far as we can tell.But whichever way you’re going to approach this, there is no way of getting around the fact that every volunteer has to be a proud Dubliner and first-time visitors are going to meet you.

All in all this is a bit of a high-risk strategy for the country. Press reports claim that lucky first-time visitors could be paired with celebrity proud Dubliners. Like, according to yesterday’s Sunday Times, Bill Cullen, David McSavage, Rosanna Davison, David Norris, Victoria Smurfit and David McWilliams. I’m not saying anything, I’m just saying. You’d have to be in the humour, even if you were a foreigner.

We must not despair, those of us who cling to the lower slopes of Dublin pride. In our house we have many potential ambassadors, all more than willing to talk for Ireland.

If you are a foreign visitor who is interested in a band called YouMeAtSix, for example, we have exactly the ambassador for you.

If you are a rugby fan – indeed, even if you are not a rugby fan – we have people here who can shout “put McFadden on the wing and drop Gordon Darcy. It’s time the old guard moved on” for hours at a time, and who can be refuelled with either pints or coffee.

And we have a dog who is a proud Dubliner if the first-time visitors don’t feel like listening. All in all, finding ambassadors is not going to be the problem – although it is a bit rough that people who are not on the internet have no way, as far as I can see, of volunteering for the City of a Thousand Welcomes project. (Hey, you can telephone Trevor White on 086 818 2222 and Simon O’Connor on 087 131 7129).

No, it’s finding first-time visitors that’s going to be the problem. Luckily we have until Bloomsday – June 16th , as all proud Dubliners know – to get this together. Now James Joyce was a very proud Dubliner. That’s why he lived abroad.

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