Is the Government trying to destroy Killarney?

I recognise that the headline is provocative. But honestly, read this and ask yourself: If, for the sake of argument, an Irish Government was to deliberately set out to destroy the tourism industry in Killarney, one of our premier destinations, what would it do differently?

Kerry County Council planning officials are calling door-to door to warn the county’s property owners not to let houses to tourists, a public meeting in Killarney has heard.

One property owner, located 11km from Killarney, told the meeting organised by the Irish Self-Catering Federation she had been letting a property on a farm and had a visit last week from a planning enforcement officer, telling her to stop.

A second woman said the enforcement officer said if she did not stop letting to tourists, she would be fined €300

Read the whole article, if you have time, but the gist of it is in those three paragraphs. Killarney is now a “rent pressure zone”, which means, amongst other things, that it is illegal to engage in short term lettings to tourists. Add to this that – according to local restaurateur Paul Treyvaud – the population of the town has increased by 13% since the summer, thanks to the use of tourist accommodation to host migrants and those fleeing the war in Ukraine. There are barely any hotel rooms left for tourists. And now, you can be fined if you offer one a short term let on AirBnB.

All of which poses a simple question: Where are Killarney’s tourists supposed to stay?

But John”, you might respond, “this is all a short-term issue, and we’re out of tourist season”. Well, no. First of all, we are out of peak tourist season, but it is autumn. The annual deer rut is on. The leaves on the trees are turning, my photography-enthusiast and Kerry-born wife tells me, a perfect colour. For a certain kind of person, Killarney is heaven at this time of year. For a certain kind of person, it’s heaven at any time of the year.

Second, there’s zero evidence that this is a short-term issue. There is no sign of a reduction in inward migration, and nor, thanks to Putin’s abhorrent new campaign against Ukrainian cities, is there any prospect of that country being safe enough for people to return to, any time soon. If you think the refugee issue will resolve itself in time for summer holiday season, then you’re projecting hope over any realistic expectation.

But really, those are secondary issues. Refugees need somewhere to stay, and Killarney has hotels. I’m sure the hoteliers are happy to help, at appropriate nightly rates, and so on.

The bigger question is where the Government thinks it gets its authority to tell people that they may not let their homes to tourists for a week? The people who do so are not tax evaders, or criminals, or engaging in anything other than providing a service for which there is considerable demand. This is the perfect example of a Government interfering in a market to break it. You cannot tell me that the kind of property customarily used as a holiday letting is suitable for people who are homeless and looking for houses: As someone who has stayed in holiday lettings in Killarney, I’d advise not taking one unless you have a car, for one thing. This is just madness: It is taking money out of the local economy, with no obvious way to replace it. Holidaymakers don’t only pay rent, remember. They also eat in local restaurants, take local tours, visit local attractions. Banning them from coming, effectively, hurts more people than just the dreaded, hated, evil “landlords”.

And so, I come back to the opening question: Is this deliberate?

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and so, I suspect the answer is “no, this is just good old fashioned incompetence”. But I increasingly find it hard to blame anyone who is a conspiracy theorist. We know that our Green friends hate flying, and holidaying overseas. We know that many tourists to Killarney take transatlantic flights, committing crimes against Greta in the process. Is it so hard to believe that somebody, somewhere, in the bowels of Government, takes a quiet satisfaction in doing their bit for the Polar Bears, or whatever?

I don’t know. I just know that this is a policy so mindlessly destructive, and so beyond basic logic, that finding a rational explanation for it is difficult. Sometimes, incompetence just doesn’t cut it.

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