Out-of-tune buskers have been banned from the world-famous Cliffs of Moher after tourists complained about the quality of music they played.
Clare County Council has been forced to interview a new batch of musicians to entertain the one million visitors that visit the West of Ireland beauty spot each year.
Ahead of the official opening of a €31.5m tourism project at the 200m high Cliffs, the Council secured a court order prohibiting both musicians and sellers operating without permission.
Gerard Dollard, project leader for Clare County Council’s ’Cliffs of Moher New Visitor Experience’ team, said the council decided last August to move in to regulate the site.
He said some of the buskers played badly and one had a dog that attacked passing tourists.
“There had been a tradition of busking at the site going back a number of years, so if you have a situation where it is open season, how do you convert it to a properly managed process. The only way you can do that is be fair to everybody so we will go on expressions of interest and invite anybody interested in busking at the Cliffs of Moher,” Mr Dollard said.
“It is not just we who thought there was a problem, visitors who have been coming to the site would consistently have complained about the standard of music, the musicians couldn’t play very well, somebody even said a dog with one of the musicians was attacking every visitor who went by, and so on.
“In some ways it had become an easy way to make money. You go up there in the middle of August with a tin whistle and whether you can play or not, probably some people will throw you some money in the hope you might go away and stop playing.”
After the court decision, 17 performers at the west coast beauty spot underwent interviews with the council to secure a licence to continue playing their music for a living.
“If necessary we would introduce auditions at a later stage but we had no auditions of the 17, we are just going to see how things operate and if things go well,” Mr Dollard said, adding the system had worked successfully in the London Underground.
He said maybe other sites notorious for buskers such as Dublin’s Grafton Street would follow their move.
“The heavy hand of Clare County Council would only be used if things didn’t work out it is up to them to ensure everyone gets their fair share and the visitor who comes gets a very good busking experience rather than people,” he said, adding it would operate as a self-regulating system.
John King, Shannon Development’s Director of Heritage and Tourism in the region, said they had never encountered any complaints about buskers.
However, he said they would not be allowed inside other tourist sites in the region such as Bunratty Folk Park.
“We would be in favour of it in the sense the county council are putting together a whole package of measures to improve the visitor facilities at the Cliffs of Moher, including a new centre itself, and so they have a number of elements to that, one of which is they are trying to regulate the whole field of crafts and busking, from that viewpoint I think it makes sense to bring a bit of order to it,” Mr King said.
Purpose built units have also been built to accommodate the six traders offered licences at the cliffs which rise up to 214 metres above the Atlantic Ocean.
The €31.5m tourism project, which includes an underground visitor centre and cliff edge improvement works, is due to be opened by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern next Thursday.