ONE of the country's best- known publicans, Charlie Chawke, said yesterday that frontline staff serving the public at his pub group "have to be Irish".
Despite the fact that there are an estimated 500,000 non-nationals living in Ireland, the publican said that they are not as aware of Irish culture.
The owner of a nine-strong pub group said that bar and floor employees at his business "have to be Irish and they show that the Cead Mile Failte is still alive and well, thank God".
Mr Chawke said that his pubs have a winning formula and that includes Irish staff at the bar counter and on the floor.
"I believe it is essential to have Irish staff behind the bar or on the floor because they have the personality to get on with customer. Irish staff know what is going on in Croke Park or in the rugby or what is happening around the county," said Mr Chawke.
When it was put to him that his strong preference for frontline Irish staff may attract criticism, Mr Chawke said: "You have to run your business the way you see it. The Irish pub is the number one attraction for overseas tourists and tourists want to meet Irish people with great personalities and share a laugh with them and that is what they get when they come to our pubs."
He said: "We train our staff to a very high standard and our staff along with the value for money and quality of food and drink we sell are the main reasons we have been able to survive in this recession."
The Irish Immigrant Council opposed Mr Chawke's views and pointed out that his stance was illegal.
The council said that hiring staff based on nationality was illegal and that non-nationals were just as capable as Irish employees.
A spokesperson for the council said that 17pc of people who call Ireland home were born in another country.
"To suggest they should be excluded from employment in hospitality, or any other sector, is not only wrong but if implemented by any employer, on the basis of nationality, would be illegal," he said.
"Hospitality, humour and the ability to extend a Cead Míle Failte are not unique to Irish people. While the traditional Irish pub is world famous, many have benefited from the talents, skills and hospitality of staff from across the globe," he added.
Mr Chawke also revealed that his pub group is still feeling the effects of the recession.
"I don't believe that the recession is over for the pub trade. It may be for certain sectors, but it is still tough work to survive as a publican.
"I don't see anyone buying champagne at our pubs just yet. They might be buying prosecco, but that is a lot cheaper than champagne," he added.
In 2005, Mr Chawke bought the Orchard Inn in Rathfarmham for a record €22m, and it remains the most expensive pub ever bought in Ireland.