The chair of Ireland’s tourism authority has resigned after travelling to Italy for a holiday.
Reports of Michael Cawley’s trip have emerged as Failte Ireland is urging people to take staycations.
Mr Cawley, who is stepping down after six years in the job, said he had “no wish to allow this issue to become a distraction from the important work of Failte Ireland in rebuilding the Irish tourism industry”.
He added: “As has been reported in the media this morning, I am on a pre-arranged family holiday in Italy, which is on the government green list.”
Catherine Martin, the tourism minister, accepted Mr Cawley’s resignation and said she was “disappointed” to learn he was holidaying in Italy.
Ms Martin added: “Tourism and hospitality have suffered significant losses since the start of this pandemic, with the industry in the three midlands counties of Laois, Kildare and Offaly particularly affected at present.
“As a sign of solidarity with the industry, and to help the country reopen its schools safely, the government and my department, in particular, have encouraged people to holiday in Ireland this year.
“The vast majority of Irish people have heeded that call, and are helping to keep our tourism industry afloat.
“While Italy is on the green list, meaning that people who return from there do not have to restrict their movements, the government has called on people to avoid all non-essential travel.
“Many of our citizens and residents have followed this guidance at some personal and financial cost to themselves.”
Paul Kelly, the chief executive of Failte Ireland, wished Mr Cawley well, adding: “Michael has been an invaluable support to the executive team at Failte Ireland.
“He has made a significant contribution to developing and growing the tourism sector in Ireland.”
Ireland’s government established a tourism recovery taskforce to try to rebuild the industry after it was hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Tourism is Ireland’s largest indigenous sector, generating more than €9bn for the economy in 2019.