Game of Thrones star faces backlash after branding Belfast 'depressing'
One of the biggest stars of Game of Thrones is facing a backlash after he branded Belfast "depressing".
Kit Harington - who plays Jon Snow in the smash hit television show which is filmed in Northern Ireland - poked fun at his host city and its efforts at tourism.
The English actor said Belfast is famous for having the most bombed hotel in Europe, for building a ship that sank on its maiden voyage and creating the most depressing TV show on the planet.
Harington has now been branded rude and dismissive after his comments to a US talk show.
On Late Night with Seth Meyers, Harington bemoaned being based mainly in the city for five years, adding it was a lovely place for tourists "for two or three days".
The actor, egged on by Meyers, went on to describe Belfast having a "wonderfully, depressing tourist board."
"I have to be careful what I say", he added.
He said: "They have a wonderful tourist board, they celebrate three things. Having the most bombed hotel in Europe, which is great. They built the Titanic which is a ship that sunk on its maiden voyage and now they have Game of Thrones, the most depressing show on the planet."
Visit Belfast employee Fiona Ure, a self-described "blow-in from Scotland", has worked in our tourism industry for 16 years and said her job promoting the city is anything but depressing.
Ms Ure dismissed Harington's comments, saying he was "not taking himself too seriously" and it was "very flippant and a tongue-in-cheek premise".
"We are a vibrant young city moving forward with a great range of things to see and do," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
Julie Hastings, marketing director of Hastings Hotels, said: "We are very proud that The Europa has established itself as one of the world's most famous hotels and is home to many stars from around the world when they are staying in Belfast - we even have a suite named after President Clinton who stayed with us on his visits to the city."
Meanwhile, there was a mixed reaction on Twitter and YouTube.
Among the posts were:
- "I love Kit Harington but why's he hating on Belfast? Why you gotta be so rude."
- "As someone who doesn't take part in the PC offended saga and also being from Northern Ireland, I do find the comments by the host and guest to be very rude and dismissive of the great things Northern Ireland and Belfast can offer."
- "Dear Kit Harington, Belfast is happy enough if you don't bother coming back. It was good enough for you when you were a nobody."
- "Kit Harington is pretty on the money there, I'd say..."
- "Obviously Seth Meyers has never been to Northern Ireland and Kit Harington needs to lighten up. Don't listen to these two. Visit! It's beaut."
A Tourism NI statement in response to the furore highlighted the positive.
"Tourism NI recognises the filming of the Game of Thrones and screen tourism as a key asset and a key area for growth in Northern Ireland.
"Belfast and Northern Ireland is recognised as a great short break destination. Belfast was recently voted, for a fourth consecutive year by TripAdvisor, as one of the UK's top 10 best destinations among travellers from around the world.
"In recent years significant investment into our tourism infrastructure has created unique visitor experiences.
"This includes Titanic Belfast, recently named Europe's number one visitor attraction, and since its opening in 2012 it has exceeded visitor number expectations, attracting over 2m visitors from across 145 countries."
Visit Belfast recommends...
1. St George's Market - built in the 1890s, was named the UK's Best Large Indoor Market 2014.
2. The Ulster Museum - a treasure house of past and present is home to a rich collection of art, history and natural sciences.
3. Oh Yeah Music Centre - music tours start at the Ulster Hall and end at the former bonded whiskey warehouse in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter.
4. World Class Golf - on our doorstep at Malone, Shandon and Balmoral with Royal Belfast, Royal Co Down, and Royal Portrush not far to reach.
5. Aunt Sandra's Candy Factory - an old fashioned sweet shop. Parties held regularly for all ages.