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Holidays begin at home

AS patriotic duties go, spending two weeks in the west of Ireland must rank as one of the more pleasant. Or, if you live in the west of Ireland, how about a break in Dublin or Cork? There is great value to be had in what used to be some of the world's most expensive cities.

Yesterday, the OECD joined every other expert in telling us that lack of domestic spending is the big drag on the economy. Most of us may not be in a position to spend more, and others may not be in the mood, but we can at least make sure that as much as possible of what we do spend stays at home.

All of which makes it very difficult for any politician who wants a bit of sun or -- what's even worse -- a bit of skiing for later in the year. Woe betide the Minister who is found basking on some foreign shore while those in the tourism business at home struggle to stay afloat.

Colleagues who harboured such dreams for 2011 may not thank tourism minister Michael Ring for his call that they holiday at home. Those who weren't thinking that way quickly seized their opportunity. Enda Kenny, Leo Varadkar and Alan Kelly assured us that a home holiday was their dearest wish.

The others had better revise their plans, or think up some good excuse. In the middle of this dismal spring, one has a certain sympathy for anyone wanting blue skies. Still, these are exceptional times. Having given only a feeble example on ministerial pay and pensions, the least they can do is risk a rainy, windy break for this year to encourage the rest.

If the thought is still unbearable, the ministerial holiday will have to be modest, and with serious purpose. Diving to study the effects of climate change on coral reefs, for example. Studying the health service of Spain. The possibilities are endless, especially for those who learnt their trade in local government.