Tourism: “The Gathering: An Irish Homecoming”
Private Members’ Business
Arlene Foster (DUP)
It is the London Olympics, as my friend rightly points out.
Can I also say to her: is she so ignorant that she does not realise that the Cultural Olympiad is playing a very significant part in the major events that are taking place here this year? I know that the Member is blinded by the idea that everything has to be on an all-Ireland basis. However, she really needs to be less myopic and to look at what the United Kingdom is doing for us and our tourism figures. Actually, most of our tourists come from Great Britain. So, is she now saying that she does not want visitors coming from Great Britain? Is that what the Member is saying?
Mr McKay talked about why the Department was not engaged on the issue of “The Gathering”. I was told about “The Gathering” initiative — and members of the SDLP might like to take cognisance of this issue — one day before it was launched in Dublin at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Mr McKay then went on to speak about the NIO’s negative approach in relation to the visa waiver scheme. It is actually the Irish Government that need to come up to the mark on security issues in order to allow the visa waiver to happen. Indeed, anybody who has a United Kingdom visa can travel to the Republic of Ireland, so visitors who come to the UK during the Olympics can go right throughout the British Isles with a UK visa.
Mr Frew said that there was a need to be positive about Northern Ireland, and Mr Swann referred to tourism in our own country. I will point out to him that Tourism Ireland has a statutory duty to give standout to Northern Ireland in its work across the world. There will be a very strong legacy after the UK City of Culture. I am more than happy to look at genealogy tourism; we are doing a lot of work on that in North America through Tourism Ireland mailshots.
Mr McMullan said that we were being parochial, but I do not accept that. We are using our contacts across the UK and through Tourism Ireland. Dr McDonnell gave us a lecture on what we needed to do. In his view, more visitors come from Australia to Northern Ireland than come to the Republic of Ireland. That is a fact that people sometimes miss.
When I spoke to Mr Attwood at the Executive meeting last Thursday, I told him that I would not support the motion because it was political. It is clearly a political motion, but that will not stop me from working with colleagues in the Republic of Ireland to promote tourism in Northern Ireland. The motion should be voted down because of its political nature, and I look forward to working with colleagues to promote Northern Ireland across the world.