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Forget Saints and Scholars - it's the Hoods and Hooks.

Byline: Pat Flanagan

THE Spanish have to be the maddest creatures on the planet - why else would they come to this God-forsaken kip of a country?

As the natives are killing each other to get off this rain-soaked sod there has been an influx of young Spaniards supposedly here to learn English.

But I suspect they escaped from a secure mental hospital in Malaga.

Why else would you come to a country with no seasons but has five Januarys, four Novembers and three Aprils?

Even in classical times, Ireland was a bit of a hard sell when it came holiday destinations. The Romans, who put up with everything from the scorching Sahara to the frozen German forests, couldn't face Hibernia - the land of perpetual winter.

Like the present-day Yanks and Brits, the boys in the togas decided to give the place a miss.

King Billy even claimed he lost more men to the Irish weather than in battle.

It was not until the 1950s that we spun the world this yarn that Ireland was a magical place.

Traditionally, tourists have come here to sample our culture and heritage and view our unique landscape.

But with a highway going through Tara and an incinerator being built next to Newgrange, that knocks the heritage bit on the head.

And chances are an American tourist is unlikely to speak to a native as the hospitality sector is almost exclusively run by foreign workers as they work for less.

It could be time for Bord Failte to change tack and market the real Ireland - after all they have been passing off the land of scumbags and skangers as the Isle of Saints and Scholars for decades.

This country has a lot going for it and it is now time to highlight the hidden Ireland to attract a new generation of overseas tourists. Spain has its running of the bulls, Dublin has its running of the bullies when gangs of drunken hoodies on horses race through the streets on Sunday mornings.

And what about a Mullingar bare-knuckle boxing festival? - you'd have fight club enthusiasts from all over the world heading for the Midlands complete with huge Braveheart-type Traveller battles.

It could prove a knock-out moneyspinner and also bring the country's unique Traveller culture to a wider audience.

For years Fungi the Dingle dolphin has been pulling in the tourists but he could have competition.

What tourist could resist a swim with the three-eyed fish in Cork Harbour?

If the area has the most toxic site in Europe outside of Chernobyl they should not be keeping the secret to themselves.

Munich has its Beer Festival, Cannes has its Film Festival so why can't Dublin have a heroin festival?

There are not as many opera fans in the city as there are heroin addicts and they have their own festival.

Think of the revenue from dealers and users arriving in the city from all over the world.

And there would be no big Cead Mile Failte for them - most of the country's small airports have no permanent customs office.

Why not have an international stolen-car rally starting in Donegal and finishing - burned out - in Finglas?

Forget about kissing the Blarney Stone - that's old hat. Why not show the tourists how our politicians kissed the builder's arses.

Charlie Haughey and Co put Ireland on the world corruption map so why not stage the World Call My Bluff finals in Dublin?

Our lot would prove themselves the best in the world, having brazened it out in the tribunals for the last 10 years.

And you thought it was all doom and gloom.

We could stage a bare-knuckle boxing festival and bring Traveller culture to a wider audience
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 8, 2008
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