Charity bikers had to pay at castle grounds
The local co-ordinator of a major charity motorbike rally, and the Mayor of Wexford, have both expressed disappointment that the estimated 1,000 participants from 24 countries were charged the usual entry fee into Johnstown Castle at the weekend, instead of seeing it waived.
The Honda Goldwing Club's 'Treffen' (a German term for gathering of friends), saw about 500 bikes, mostly from overseas, cruising the county in convoy from Hook Head to Wexford and as far as Gorey and Courtown.
Event co-ordinator Ciarán Meyler, from Blackwater, said they got a great welcome everywhere except Johnstown Castle, where they were taken aback to be asked for the entry free despite how it was a charity event and how the gathering was already bringing such a boost to the local economy.
Wexford's Mayor George Lawlor has agreed that it should not have happened and said he would be making enquiries into how it came about.
'It should not have happened and I will work on increasing communication and co-operation between Teagasc, the Wexford County Council and Wexford Borough District to ensure that tourist events such as this, which bring a boost to the local economy, get the welcome they deserve. I have already spoken to the County Manager, telling him I have a problem with how they were treated,' he said yesterday (Monday).
Cllr. Lawlor said he only heard about the event two days beforehand, on an invitation from former County Manager Seamus Dooley, who is now the Chairman of Wexford Swimming Pool Management Committee at Ferrybank, where many of the bikers were camping.
'Unfortunately I didn't receive an invitation from the Goldwing Club themselves, which is usually what happens and which allows me to intervene on their behalf, but we need to learn from this and it highlights a need for a liaison person in each district to communicate between the different bodies, ahead of events like this,' he said.
Ciarán Meyler said the not-for-profit club had been preparing for the event for over a year, but found some sections of the Wexford County Council and some local businesses were 'hard work', and 'less than enthusiastic' about the biking event.
'With Teagasc, who run Johnstown Castle, we had a hard slog negotiating with them to cut the entrance fee down to €2 per biker after they refused to allow us free entry to the Castle although it was the finishing point of our "Parade of Nations",' he said.
'We asked the Council two months ago if we could have EU flags lining Wexford Bridge for the 'Parade of Nations'. The flags were never put up because they couldn't be found but they didn't let us know that in advance, neither would they give us permission to parade down the Main Street (of Wexford town),' he said.
Ciaran said that last year's rally was held in County Leitrim and the authorities in Carrick-on-Shannon could not have been more co-operative and appreciative of the tourism boost for their region.
'I think that in County Wexford there is something or someone out of sync with what tourism is for the county,' he said.
Huge crowds turned out to see the bikers cruising in convoy, particularly in Gorey, were thousands lined the Main Street on Saturday night.
'The crowds that turned out to see us surpassed anything we dreamed of, and every crossroad from Wexford, Ballyedmond, Ballycanew and Gorey was full of on-lookers,' he said.
'I have to say that we were delighted with the Ferrybank Caravan Park and its camping facilities which are spotless and the staff really helpful and in Courtown the business people and politicians were really co-operative and let us park the bikes on the pier,' he said.
Ciaran made special mention of the Wexford Academy of Irish Dancers from Bree who performed their Celtic show for free at the Riverbank Hotel, an event that was greatly appreciated by the continental guests.
Ciaran said the Leinster Goldwing Club made a loss on hosting the event but nonetheless raised €800 from a raffle for Enniscorthy's Animal Rescue Centre.
'Overall though all the our foreign visitors loved their stay in Wexford and had a wonderful things to say about their stay,' he added.