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The Clare Echo has teamed up with Ennis native & podcast host Fergal O’Keeffe to bring you his new series, Travel Tales with Fergal. The podcast aims to share soul-lifting travel memoirs about day-dream worthy destinations.

Representatives of the pub, restaurant and hotel trades will come before the Oireachtas Tourism Committee this week to outline the effects of the pandemic on their industries. It is one year since all hospitality businesses in Ireland had to close due to the pandemic. The Pantibar owner Rory O’Neill has felt first-hand the devastating effects of the lockdown restrictions on the Irish tourism sector.

“The discussion was presented as a problem that had to be fixed and the solution was to close us. Once that decision was made and all the bars and venues were closed, it felt like they thought the problem was fixed and everyone moved on. But that fix had a massive, huge impact on us”.
Speaking with the Irish broadcaster Fergal O’Keeffe on the Travel Tales with Fergal Podcast this week, Mr O’Neill also known as Panti Bliss, talks about the effects of that lockdown on the hospitality and tourism industries. “It turns out our industry was utterly disposable. People in those industries are expected to take on a much larger burden than the rest of the population.’

“We actually closed before we had to on Paddy’s day last year. I always try to be clear that I’m not arguing against the restrictions. I understand why we are closed. But I feel that the huge sacrifice we have been asked to make on behalf of everybody has been ignored to some extent or most certainly under-appreciated”.

Rory tells Fergal that he is most looking forward to going onto a packed dance floor when this all ends. “One of the big things in the pandemic that got lost is the concept of communal joy. We haven’t experienced that in a year. Every culture, every country in every time period has found time for communal joy like going to gigs, music, the cinema, wedding and parties and all of that has been taken from us. I don’t think that is a small thing, but a really big thing that we didn’t really appreciate until it was taken from us”.

He talks on the podcast about the five trips and places that shaped and influenced him the most. He shares great stories of spending teenage summers in the south of France. He would spend the first half working on a maize farm in the Basque region, and then he would hitch-hike down through France to Montpellier and work on the beach selling ice creams. Before ending the summer in Cannes.

This episode shines a light on why travel is so important. Especially for an island country like Ireland. Travel opens our country to the world and fresh ideas of how a modern society can be run are brought back by travellers. Making our people and country a better and much more fun place to live.

If you have any queries about the travels mentioned every week Fergal O’Keeffe can be contacted directly on Facebook and Instagram @traveltaleswithfergal.

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