Belfast Telegraph

Mr Tayto theme park sounds very a-peeling

By Margaret Canning

The importance of the trading relationship between the Republic and Northern Ireland has been thrown into relief by the former's economic difficulties.

Michael Hall, managing partner of Ernst -amp; Young in Ireland, said that as many businesses on both parts of Ireland are interdependent, the Executive should support the NI businesses which could suffer as a result of our neighbour's turmoil.

But he believes food and drink firms in Northern Ireland which sell goods into the Republic should escape largely scot-free, because come what may, people still need to eat.

Discretionary spending on entertainment, restaurants and bars is another story, however, and all are expected to suffer as a new wave of even harsher austerity measures descend on the Republic.

What does Mr Tayto, an icon of confectionery in the Republic and no relation to his crisp counterpart in Tandragee, Co Armagh, make of it all? He released his life story, The Man Inside the Jacket, some time ago, but has been largely silent since.

The same can't be said of his owner, Largo Foods, which yesterday opened a Tayto theme park in Co Meath.

Business owner Ray Coyle developed the American-themed park, including adventure playgrounds and exotic animals from buffalo to cougars and mountain lions.

The park has taken three years and €8.5m - and for sheer chutzpah, it cannot be bettered.

The Potatohontus (inspired by Pocahontas) Native American Village boasts six teepee tents, while Pet-Tayto Corner features rabbits, ducks, geese, pheasants and a menagerie filled with rare birds.

Mr Coyle told the Irish Times the theme park would be "an experience, but with a lot of different experiences within it".

"I wanted to create something that would be fun and create unusual buildings.

"Most importantly, it has to deliver. The food must deliver, people have to have fun from the activities, enjoy the landscaping we've done.

"The animals have to look unusual and be interesting."

Punters can get their picture taken beside a statue of Mr Tayto - and Brian Cowen's unfortunate proximity to a Mr Tayto model drew sniggers a few months back.

It's quite possible more people will queue up to be photographed beside Mr Tayto than the beleaguered Taoiseach.