Communities in tourist towns on weekend alert

Communities in tourist towns on weekend alert

Communities in tourist hotspots remain on alert ahead of any potential influx of holidaymakers over the long weekend — but garda efforts to turn people back appear to be working. West Cork, Kerry and Clare are among the areas braced for tourists due to the long weekend and good weather.

In Schull, an aggressive sign warning tourists not to visit was erected in recent days. Locals say it does not reflect the attitudes of the wider community.

And, while it is still early in the weekend, one resident told the Irish Examiner "there has not been too much of an influx of visitors, contrary to reports circulating". A post from the Love Schull community group asked people to not "jump to conclusions about visitors". It reads: "We are experiencing extraordinary circumstances, but our strength will be in how we react to them."

West Cork Senator Tim Lombard said people are wary: "I know the caravan parks, which are closed, have been getting calls to see if they’’re open. And the Airbnb properties are a concern too. They are blatantly advertising to come and stay here. There is a fear out there."

There are still thousands of properties listed for rent on Airbnb all over Ireland, despite Government restrictions on movement. In Britain, Airbnb blocked properties from accepting new bookings for the coming days unless they are for key workers. No such steps have been taken here. Airbnb did not respond to requests for comment on the situation. Mr Lombard said it should be considered.

Residents in County Clare, meanwhile, appealed to people not to travel to visit landmarks such as Mullaghmore mountain and the Burren National Park. National Parks and Wildlife Service conservation rangers have taken up duty at various locations across the country to remind visitors of social distancing guidelines.

The coastal town of Kilkee hit the headlines in recent days after aggressive posters warning holiday homeowners to stay away and threatening their properties appeared. The matter is being investigated by gardaí.

It has been widely condemned locally, with Kilkee Chamber of Commerce describing it as "nonsensical, counterproductive and criminal", adding that it is "not indicative of the attitude of the overwhelming majority of people in Kilkee".

Local councillor, Cillian Murphy, said there is "no doubt" there are extra people in the coastal town. But, he added that many of those have been there for "three or four weeks" and may include people self-isolating.

Mike Taylor, a peace commissioner in Kilkee, said the garda efforts are working: "They’’re doing an unbelievable job and implementing the new powers fully. People are concerned. There are a lot of elderly people in Kilkee and people have taken the restrictions very seriously from day one. To see people not doing this and plainly flouting them is disappointing."

Meanwhile, a social media post claiming to show a sign in the Kerry town of Kenmare warning tourists to stay away was quickly debunked by a local photographer, who lives near the site where it was reported to have been set up. No such sign was put in place, and gardaí said they were not alerted to any such signs in the area but said they will "patrol major tourist destinations, natural beauty spots, beaches etc, to ensure compliance with travel restrictions".

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