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Fáilte Ireland chairman resigns after travelling to Italy for foreign holiday

The Irish Independent reported this morning that Michael Cawley abroad for a vacation.

Michael Cawley (file photo)
Michael Cawley (file photo)
Image: Anthony Devlin/PA Images

THE CHAIRMAN OF Fáilte Ireland Michael Cawley has resigned following reports that he left the country for a foreign holiday.

The Irish Independent reported this morning that Cawley travelled to Italy – which is on the Green List – for a vacation.

It comes despite the tourism authority’s efforts to get people to stay at home this summer in order to help minimise the risk of importing cases of Covid-19 from abroad.

In a statement this afternoon, Cawley confirmed that he had tendered his resignation to Tourism Minister Catherine Martin.

“As has been reported in the media this morning I am on a pre-arranged family holiday in Italy, which is on the Government green list,” he said.

“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.”

In another statement, Martin said she had accepted Cawley’s decision to step aside.

“I 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,” she said.

“I wish to thank Mr Cawley for his service as Chair of Fáilte Ireland. Mr Cawley has served Fáilte Ireland with energy over his time as chair, and I want to thank him for his service to the cause of tourism promotion in Ireland.

“He recognises that solidarity with the industry is extremely important at this time, and I have accepted his resignation this afternoon because I believe his position was untenable.”

Meanwhile, Fáilte Ireland CEO Paul Kelly thanked Cawley for his chairmanship of the authority since his appointment in 2014.

Earlier, opposition TDs had called for Cawley’s immediate resignation over the incident.

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Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Tourism Imelda Munster described Cawley’s decision to holiday abroad as an error of judgement at a time when the domestic sector was struggling due to a lack of foreign visitors.

“It undermines his own organisation’s campaign to support staycations and shows he does not have sufficient faith in the very industry he is employed to promote,” she said in a statement.

“His decision to holiday abroad undermines his credibility and the campaign for people to holiday locally.

“I am also concerned that Mr Cawley’s decision to holiday overseas is contrary to Government advice that people should not make non-essential journeys abroad in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.

He statement was echoed by Labour’s tourism spokesperson Senator Mark Wall.

“Mr Cawley’s actions make a mockery of the Government’s mantra that we are all supposedly in this together and this affair smacks of one rule for us and another rule for them and I cannot see how he can expect to continue in his role,” Wall said.

“Irish people have made enormous personal sacrifices to suppress the spread of this deadly virus and for a senior official at a state agency to openly flout travel advice in the midst of the worst pandemic in living memory is frankly insulting and unacceptable.”

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