Locals at Irish hotspots fear Covid-19 influx from arriving tourists

Locals at Irish hotspots fear Covid-19 influx from arriving tourists
Gardaí man the checkpoint on the Clonakilty to Bandon Road. Picture: Andy Gibson

Residents of some of the most beautiful places in Ireland are dreading this weekend.

Although they are used to being swamped by tourists and weekenders at Easter, the prospect of an influx this time round terrifies them.

This is because the holidaymakers could be bringing Covid-19 into their communities which, for now, are relatively virus-free.

Many have already arrived in west Cork and parts of Waterford and Kerry despite the travel restrictions in place.

But residents fear thousands more will ignore pleas to stay at home and might try to travel regardless of the new enforcement powers handed to gardaí.

If the experience of the Seanad’s acting Cathaoirleach Denis O’Donovan is anything to go by, their arrival could lead to tensions between residents and holidaymakers.

The 63-year-old Fianna Fáil senator has told how a young couple repeatedly ignored requests not to cut across private land owned by an elderly couple who are cocooning just outside Schull.

They had seen a sign asking people to stay away from a particular route leading to a tourist attraction, Sailor’s Hill vantage point overlooking the west Cork town.

But they ignored the sign and appeals from local residents and cut through private land to get to the vantage point.

“I told the young couple but they just fobbed me off and ignored my advice,” he said. 

“Then the man who is cocooning met them but they just ignored him too.”

He said that apart from putting other people’s lives at risk, holidaymakers are also showing contempt for those who stick to the Covid-19 rules and restrictions.

“My grandchild Katie was six yesterday and all I was able to do was wave to her on a video call using my phone,” he said.

“I can’t visit any of my grandchildren and neither can they visit me.”

Cork County councillor Joe Carroll, of Skibbereen, doesn’t have an issue with people who own holiday homes in the area and who decided to return to them before the movement restrictions came in.

He does, however, have an issue with those who came down recently and who still plan to come down this weekend.

“I live just outside Skibbereen and I walk up and down the river and I haven’t seen any strangers myself,” he said.

“But I have heard there are people in Baltimore. I suppose, up to a point, if they have a property in Baltimore, they are entitled to come down, maybe they came down a week or 10 days ago.

“If they stay local to the house, I don’t think they are doing any harm to anyone.

“It’s the people who came down in the last few days that bother me. They shouldn’t be coming down.”

On Airbnb yesterday it was possible to book apartments, cottages or whole houses in and around Kenmare, Dingle and Killarney.

One owner taking bookings, who is not based in Ireland, said they had received no guidance about whether or not they could hire their property out.

Another, who also lived abroad, said they were not even aware of traffic restrictions.

Locals at Irish hotspots fear Covid-19 influx from arriving tourists

Councillor Danny Collins, who is based in Bantry, said he has noticed a recent influx of cars from outside the county.

They are mostly from the North or Dublin.

“I see them increasing as I do my deliveries for people who are cocooning,” he said. “They have started appearing in villages and townlands around Bantry.”

Waterford Councillor Eamon Quinlan said he and his Waterford City and County Council colleagues have been warned holidaymakers are on their way to his native Tramore.

“These are people who have been coming for years and no amount of restrictions seem to be deterring them,” he said. “This may now change because of the new garda powers.

“But my biggest fear is that there will be a huge increase of people from other counties travelling to Tramore to stay over the weekend and beyond. We are concerned we are going to be hit by a mini migration.”

And while all the caravans parks in the town are closed, there is a fear many people will return to the town’s large holiday apartment complexes.

When C103 radio presenter Paudie Palmer tweeted on Tuesday about a plan to begin border checks in Innishannon, many greeted it with the humour that inspired the tweet in the first place.

But it’ll be no laughing matter for residents of some of Munster’s tourist traps if their fears of a mini invasion over the coming days prove to be true.


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