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Pastor's fury at taxpayer-funded tourism drive over gay marriage

By Claire McNeilly

Published 26/05/2015

Rev David McIlveen
Rev David McIlveen

A Free Presbyterian Minister has branded a new campaign to market the Irish Republic as the go-to destination for same-sex weddings as crass.

Rev David McIlveen said that there was no justification for the use of taxpayers' money to find the Tourism Ireland initiative, launched days after a referendum was passed giving the green light to gay marriage in the Republic.

But former Sinn Fein Stormont Minister Caitriona Ruane hailed the online campaign as "very clever marketing".

Meanwhile, civic leaders in the Republic believe Dundalk and other border towns could become the Irish equivalents of Gretna Green in Scotland, with gay couples from Northern Ireland making the short journey across the border to get legally married.

Although the 'Ireland Says I Do' campaign appears to be spontaneous, Tourism Ireland said it had been working on it for ten days in anticipation of a Yes vote in last Friday's referendum

It is being rolled out in nine markets including Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said: "Ireland is in the international spotlight and trending for all the right reasons across social and international media. It's not often you get a blast of publicity like that."

Rev McIlveen called the campaign "crass", and added that it was "very disingenuous for Tourism Ireland to seek to capitalise on the vote in the Republic of Ireland".

He said: "Many people will feel very aggrieved that money from Northern Ireland is being spent on this type of campaign and I believe there is no justification whatever for this investment," he said.

"Not only are they exploiting something for monetary gain, they are also promoting something that isn't even legal in Northern Ireland."

But Ms Ruane said: "If you take it that 10% of a population is from the gay community then it makes smart sense.

"The south of Ireland is the only part of the world that has passed it by popular vote and you may as well cash in on what happened and the mood."

Dundalk Chamber of Commerce public relations officer Paddy Malone, said the Co Louth border town was expecting a boost from the pink pound.

"Gay people from Northern Ireland have already told us they're thinking of coming here to get married so we're expecting it to be good for business," Mr Malone said.

And, in an apparent reference to last week's Ashers verdict, when the Christian bakery was found guilty of discrimination after it declined a gay activist's request for a cake supporting gay marriage, Mr Malone added: "A local shop called The Home Bakery is now advertising that they'll bake cakes with any messages of support for same sex couples."

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