Minister hits back at Lonely Planet description of his home town

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern last night defended his home town after Dundalk was branded “tough, dour and charmless” in the new Irish edition of the Lonely Planet guidebook.

Mr Ahern dismissed the criticism of his Co Louth base and insisted it had come a long way since its El Paso border town image of the 1980s.

The guidebook’s seventh edition, written by Dubliner Fionn Davenport said: “Tough, uncompromising Dundalk is a reminder of a bygone age, when Irish towns couldn’t care less about looking pretty for the nice tourists and just went about the hard business of eking out a living. Louth’s dour county town is a charmless place, with few historic sites and not much else to see or do.”

But Mr Ahern urged Mr Davenport to get out more and shake off his outdated prejudices.

“This lazy depiction of Dundalk belongs to an era long ago, when the Northern Troubles were at their height,” the minister’s spokesman said last night.

“We’ve had nearly a decade of peace now and Dundalk is a bustling urban centre with a growing population in addition to a thriving industry and modern infrastructure.”

Navan, Co Meath also comes in for a slating in the new edition of the guidebook.

“You won’t want to waste too much time in Navan,” Mr Davenport writes.

“It’s a busy enough place serving as the crossroads between the busy N3 Dublin Road and the N51 between Drogheda and Westmeath, which is good for local business but bad for aesthetics.”

The book also criticises Gweedore as being overrun by holiday-home mania.

It says Clifden “can seem a little dragged down by tourism, and the town has a vaguely jaded feel to it.”

It also dismisses Knock: “Be warned: religion is big business here and the village is crammed with hawkers looking to cash in on the fervent, almost medieval piety of pilgrims.”

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