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Kenny warns ministers over St Patrick's Day trips

Government ministers planning St Patrick's Day junkets may be snubbed by international leaders, Enda Kenny claimed today.

The Fine Gael leader said the Irish public would also be stunned by any cynical attempts of swan song trips abroad weeks before the coalition are expected to be booted out.

While Mr Kenny would not rubbish Taoiseach Brian Cowen's annual visit to the White House, he revealed he would find it incredible for a Government on its last legs and with no support from the people to represent the country overseas on March 17.

"I think that the electorate here would see that as the most cynical exercise, the most cynical swan song that you could ever imagine," he said.

"And it might well have repercussions for many of those ministers internationally in that persons they might wish to see might not want to see them."

The Opposition leader maintained politicians worldwide might not want to meet members of an outgoing Irish Government.

"I don't speak for the US Government, obviously. I'm talking about the fact you have 14 to 20 ministers travelling to different countries meeting different prime ministers and different political leaders," he continued.

"Some of them might say 'you're not going to be in Government in a weeks time so why should I meet you'."

Mr Kenny spoke out as party colleague Jimmy Deenihan launched a radical overhaul of the tourism industry which aims to put it at the centre of economic recovery.

If elected, Fine Gael plans to cut travel tax and other charges, alter Visa requirements for holidaymakers from China and India, promote Ireland's heritage, environment and authenticity, and push sports and culinary attractions.

Sporting ambassadors will also promote Ireland worldwide and a Tourism House will be created, a one-stop-tourist-shop putting Failte Ireland and Tourism Ireland under one roof to work more closely together.

Mr Deenihan said the industry is capable of making an even greater contribution to the Irish economy in terms of job creation and Exchequer returns.

He also claimed bank-run hotels were upsetting the competitiveness of the industry.

"Tourism in Ireland has taken a battering in recent years with a staggering one million fewer visitors coming here in the first six months of 2010 compared to 2008," said the Fine Gael spokesman on tourism.

"The sector has seriously underperformed in the last decade, with a worrying decline in the British and American markets."

PA Media