A BEAUTY queen finalist got a shock as she picked up her luggage at Dublin Airport to find she was the face of The Gathering.
Charlene Carbery (30), from Collon, Co Louth, took part in the Carlingford Oyster Pearl Festival last August, during which she posed for publicity photographs.
She believed they would be used in local newspapers and thought no more of it.
Little did she realise she would wind up welcoming tens of thousands of passengers at the luggage carousels at Dublin Airport or adorning the back of buses, all in the name of the country's tourism drive.
"I thought the shots were for the local press and definitely didn't think they were for a big marketing campaign. I got some shock to see them at Terminal One," she said.
"I didn't get an invitation to any event, no recognition from Failte Ireland or The Gathering, and I think it's really bad form, especially when we want people to come to Ireland and have a positive experience. It has left a really bad taste in my mouth.
"The photograph was first used in a magazine supplement published with the 'Irish Times' and then it was at the luggage carousel at Dublin Airport and now it's on the back of buses," she added.
Her fellow pageant participants also had no inkling their faces would be used in the major marketing campaign, although some were nonetheless happy with their inclusion.
Fellow contestant Niamh Kearney (19) said: "It would have been nice to have been told about it being used beforehand but I like what it represents."
And Helena Mullins (23) felt that Carlingford village should have been mentioned.
The Gathering has now agreed not to re-use the image in the future.
A spokeswoman said the photograph of the four beaming women had been selected for the marketing campaign as it "represented both the people of Ireland and the fun, festival atmosphere that The Gathering Ireland aspires to create throughout 2013."
She added: "We are sorry to learn of some of the participants' unhappiness at the use of the images."
A spokeswoman for the Carlingford Oyster Festival said all participants in the Pearl competition were told the images could be used for publicity reasons and they consented to this.