Following on his recent demands to have the regional tourism authorities re - constituted a former chairman of North West Tourism and Director of Bord Failte has spoken out for the first time “on how he was shafted” in his roles as Chairman and Director of the Tourism Organisations.
Speaking to the Donegal Democrat, Cllr. Sean McEniff recalled the events that led to the demise of the regional tourism organisation which he feels really represented the hospitality trade in the North West.
Mc Eniff said, “In plain simple terms they wanted rid of me - they were not able to face up to the facts about tourism in the region - they didn’t want to hear the truth.
“Bord Failte had decided that the Chairman of a Regional Tourism Authority should only serve for a maximum of three years and sent their own board representative to inform us of their decision.
“However, they ignored the fact that the Chairman was democratically elected by the members of the trade in all the member counties and that they were not in a position to come up with such a unilateral decision.
“I sought legal advice and Bord Failte were informed that they could not oust me unless the trade voted me out. As a result I remained on as Chairman for a number of years.
“They later disbanded the board and the authority and succeeded in their objective of getting me out of the picture.”
The County councillor added that the former Tanaiste and Minister for Finance, Ray McSharry took over as Chairman of the new tourism forum and ironically immediately appointed him as his main consultant.
McEniff said, “I firmly believe that Ray quit this position out of sheer frustration - here was one of the most capable men in the country at the helm but the powers that be in Dublin were not listening to the voice of the trade in the region.”
McEniff also recalled his period as Director of the National Tourism Organisation - Bord Failte where he had served for five years without ever missing a meeting.
“I firmly believe that my input was extremely positive and forward thinking but once again they decided not to listen and I was not re - appointed to the board.” said McEniff, “At that time I was developing my hotel and hospitality group both in Donegal and Dublin, was actively marketing abroad, creating jobs and most importantly putting my money where my mouth was.
“Tourism had provided me with my life and I wanted to give something back but they treated me and many others with disdain - they simply didn’t want to listen and today we are reaping the results of their mistakes.
“This is not sour grapes or a political swipe at a particular political party -successive Governments have all played a part. Regional tourism is an integral part of our industry and I can assure you that Donegal demands its voice back.”
In response to Cllr. McEniff’s assertions Alex Connolly, Head of Communications told the Donegal Democrat,
“While the former North West Regional Tourism Board would have spent approximately €350k a year marketing the region, Fáilte Ireland has invested a massive €24m into the region since it took over the role of developing tourism in the area in 2006.
“Donegal, and the rest of the region, clearly benefitted when the local North West tourism team joined forces with the larger Fáilte Ireland family. This team in the north west continues to work with the industry on a daily business to grow revenue and visitor numbers to meet the full potential of Donegal and its neighbouring counties.”