Fáilte Ireland chairman resigns after travelling to Italy on holiday amid Irish staycation push

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said she was 'disappointed' to hear Mr Cawley was holidaying in Italy

Michael Cawley. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Gabija Gataveckaite and Fionnán Sheahan

The Chairman of Fáilte Ireland has resigned following an Irish Independent story that he travelled to Italy on holiday.

The news that tourism chief Michael Cawley holidayed abroad comes while Fáilte Ireland is carrying out a "major drive to encourage people to take domestic breaks" and the Government has introduced a tax rebate to encourage people to spend their holidays in Ireland.

In a statement this afternoon, Mr Cawley said he has "no wish to allow this issue to become a distraction from the important work of Fáilte Ireland in rebuilding the Irish tourism industry".

"I fully support the Government’s policy on Tourism and I will continue to help the industry emerge from its current difficulties. It has been a privilege to serve as Chair of Fáilte Ireland and to have contributed to the massive growth which Irish tourism has enjoyed prior to this global pandemic.

"I want to thank the superb management lead by Paul Kelly Chief Executive and entire team at Fáilte for their professionalism and unwavering commitment and I wish them and the industry every success in the future".

Tourism Minister Catherine Martin has accepted his resignation.

She said that she was "disappointed" to learn of his holiday and rang the tourism chief this morning.

"I was disappointed to learn that the Chair of Fáilte Ireland was holidaying in Italy. I rang Mr Cawley this morning and he has offered his resignation which I have accepted," she said in a statement.

"I wish to thank Mr Cawley for his service as Chair of Fáilte Ireland. Mr Cawley has served Fáilte Ireland with energy over his time as chair, and I want to thank him for his service to the cause of tourism promotion in Ireland. He recognises that solidarity with the industry is extremely important at this time, and I have accepted his resignation this afternoon because I believe his position was untenable."

"I would encourage everyone to support the tourism and hospitality industries in any way they can, and am taking my own holidays in this country. Failte Ireland will continue to promote holidaying in Ireland, including a special provision to support the reopening of tourism in the three midlands counties," the minister added.

Mr Cawley last night confirmed he was in Italy but said he plans to take two holidays in Ireland in September and October.

"It [the holiday] was arranged by my family some months ago. I didn't want to disappoint them," he said.

Mr Cawley said he will be taking two holidays in Ireland in September and October.

"I understand what the Government is doing and I support it," he said.

"I am going to spend two holidays supporting the Irish tourism industry."

The former Ryanair deputy CEO was appointed as chairman of the tourism body by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar when he was tourism minister in 2014.

He was reappointed last year by then minister Shane Ross.

Mr Cawley worked with Ryanair for 17 years and was the airline's deputy chief executive and chief operating officer until his retirement.

He had previously worked as the airline's chief financial officer and commercial director.

Prior to his time with Ryanair, he worked with the Gowan Group Limited, a distributor for Peugeot and ­Citroen cars in Ireland.