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New council tourism brand using country name ‘Ireland’ branded ‘divisive’ and ‘insulting’

“Would nationalists be content with the strapline, the ‘UK’s True Nature’? Not only is ‘Ireland’s True Nature’ a divisive strategy it is a weak one too.”

Newcastle, Co Down

A new tourism branding for Newry, Mourne and Down has been ratified this week despite unionists’ concerns over its “divisive” and “insulting” use of the country name ‘Ireland’.The local authority area will now be promoted as ‘Ireland’s True Nature’ as part of its Tourism Strategy and Action Plan 2024-29.

DUP and UUP members in the full council chamber objected to the branding and a “weak” strategy they say has ignored the Ulster-Scots community.

Mournes DUP rep, Glyn Hanna said: “To be honest with you, this ‘Ireland’s True Nature’, and quite a few people have said this to me, why has this council decided to insult the rest of the people of Ireland? I do not know.

“Where is Ireland’s True Nature? We are claiming it is here in south Down and I think it is totally inappropriate. There is no one part of this island that is distinctly Ireland’s True Nature.

“So, the question is, why do you want to insult the rest of the people of Ireland? It needs changed.”

Downpatrick Sinn Fein Councillor Oonagh Hanlon added: “This was put out to market testing, it was not just up to councillors to decide.

“There were three or four different ideas put out.

“We have now got to this point and and you are going to try to completely up-end it and have to go back to the start again.”

Rowallane DUP Councillor Callum Bowsie said: “We believe this tourism strategy lacks cross community support, is politically charged and does not create the best promotion of our district.

“Right from the start and at every subsequent meeting, the DUP expressed strong opposition to Ireland’s True Nature, and the selective culture and history to be assocaited with it in the strategy, but the council has been determind to press ahead with a strategy that fails to get the majority of unionist support.

“Would nationalists be content with the strapline, the ‘UK’s True Nature’?

“Not only is ‘Ireland’s True Nature’ a divisive strategy it is a weak one too.”

Cllr Bowsie put forward an amendment to change the branding, saying: “This is a branding of 90% one culture over another.

“It would be absolutely mad to go ahead with branding that doesn’t get cross community support. ”

However, the amendment was rejected by a majority vote.

Slieve Gullion UUP rep, David Taylor also added his opposition to the original proposal, suggesting that a greater promotion of Ulster Scots heritage rather than a “foot-note” would generate greater interest in the American market.

Downpatrick SDLP Councillor Laura Devlin said: “I do respect the DUP weren’t happy and they did voice that at the workshops.

“So much work has gone on to get us to where we are now, and I know from an officer’s perspective it wasn’t easy.

“The key part here is the market testing and the international market that we want to gain more tourists from.

“Outside of this room, for the tourism and hospitality industry things are really difficult, so I don’t think any of them want to hear us in here arguing and we should put forward a united front of how best to go forward and market this district the best we can.”

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