Tourism chiefs hit out at prank ad ridiculing Limerick

Tourism chiefs and political leaders today rounded on pranksters behind a bogus advertisement ridiculing Limerick as a polluted, lawless and trigger-happy backwater.

The spoof Fáilte Ireland promotion lampoons the city as an ideal destination for sightseers to watch drive-by shootings, muggings and Piebald ponies crashing through housing estates.

Kevin Sheahan, Limerick County Council chairman, branded those behind the internet broadcast, which is being passed around the country on mobile phones, as sick.

“The people who do this have twisted minds and it’s a case of what mad notion will they wake up with tomorrow morning,” he insisted.

In the send-up, visitors are directed to the city’s fictional tourism website or the telephone hotline 1800 MASSACRE.

The 1 minute 15 second hoax opens to the sound of mystical panpipes and a deep-voiced narrator musing about an ancient place where the spirit of warriors roams free.

The mock Celtic introduction is quickly shattered by the sound of gunfire, a woman screaming and the wailing siren of an ambulance as the place is declared “Limerick”.

The narrator cheerily claims “the gateway to the south west has been rammed open” as he encourages tourists to come and “relax in the toxic waters of the River Shannon.”

Listeners are invited to “see Piebald ponies in their natural environment, as they crash through housing estate fences and sample the delights of an urban drive by shooting – right on your doorstep.”

It adds the “city’s nightlife is second to none and you’re sure to dance the night away at the Accident and Emergency Department at Limerick Regional Hospital where the friendly locals are sure to have you in stitches.”

The voice-over says a “a five-day break will cost you 240 pounds, your wallet, your keys and whatever else you had in your jacket” before ending with the slogan: “Limerick: Open your mind, hand over your wallet.”

Fáilte Ireland dismissed the take-off of their marketing campaign, uploaded on the YouTube website, as cheap and branded the culprits cheap satirists.

“This is a mischievous misinterpretation of Fáilte Ireland’s Discover Ireland advertising campaign,” said Mary Cosgrave, Public Relations Manager, of the state tourism authority.

“It is cheap satire and we do not intend to comment on it.”

Mr Sheahan said he had no doubt those behind the fake advert were out to undermine efforts to market Limerick as a tourist destination.

“Of course, it’s annoying but I wouldn’t let it go beyond annoying me – I wouldn’t even allow myself to get angry about that sort of thing,” he insisted.

“We have an enlightened, well-educated people in Ireland and they are not going to be fooled into believing anything this type of message sends out.

“I’d have more confidence in the people of this country and their ability to act intelligently than surrendering their minds to that kind of sickness. ”

The Fianna Fail county council chairman was adamant that the prank would not impact on the city’s attractiveness to visitors.

“There were Kerry jokes for a long time there and I watched my neighbouring county prosper right through that period,” he said.

“We are very proud of our Limerick and everything about it. There is a great amount of extraordinarily good things to come and visit and witness in Limerick.”

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