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Sunday 23 September 2018

Aer Lingus funding of Coulter’s tour of US sparked anger

Musician Phil Coulter’s tour of America was sponsored by the then-State airline – to the anger of the boss of retailer Penneys
Musician Phil Coulter’s tour of America was sponsored by the then-State airline – to the anger of the boss of retailer Penneys

The boss of discount clothing retailer Penneys wrote to outgoing finance minister John Bruton to express his outrage at the decision of State airline Aer Lingus to sponsor Phil Coulter and his orchestra for a marathon three-month US tour.

Arthur Ryan, the chairman and managing director of Penneys, wrote to Mr Bruton on January 21, 1987, to wish him well in the forthcoming general election after Labour had quit the Fine Gael-led coalition government.

The letter was released as part of the 1987 State archives.

However, Mr Ryan took issue with the Aer Lingus sponsorship decision.

"Whilst travelling with Aer Lingus yesterday, I read in 'Cara' magazine that Phil Coulter and his orchestra are being sponsored by Aer Lingus for three months in America.

"If this is true, I am shocked and at this stage feel very sympathetic towards the maintenance workers all of a sudden.

"How much does it cost to subsidise the orchestra and Phil Coulter for three months in America?

"Minister, I watched you last night on your [RTÉ] debate with Ray MacSharry - which you definitely won on all points - one of your statements was that we should all learn to live within our means.

"Surely someone like me, travelling to London at least once a week, would be a lot better off getting £5 off their London ticket rather than subsidising a three-month tour of an unknown orchestra for one-night stands around the US.

"Is Aer Lingus at least in on a profit-sharing basis if there is money on the take each night?"

Mr Ryan warned that he was already paying over the odds for a London ticket price with Aer Lingus and, because of the controversial sponsorship, his firm was now looking at using Ryanair for its business.


He said it was impossible to see how Aer Lingus would benefit from a US tour comprised mostly of one-night concerts across various American cities.

"It is like a midge flying into a hurricane," he warned.

Phil Coulter, a native of Derry, today ranks as one of Ireland's most successful songwriters and performers. Between 1965 and 1976, he co-wrote four No 1 hits in the UK charts.

Amongst his best-loved songs are 'The Town I Loved So Well' and 'Scorn Not His Simplicity'.

He continues to perform and this month concluded a sell-out tour of Ireland entitled 'Pure Gold'. Next year he will perform on a special series of music cruises from Florida in the US.

Irish Independent

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