By John Carney
OUTRAGED Fermanagh people have reacted angrily to Dublin journalist Brighid McLaughlin after her recent article about the county left many shocked and dismayed.
Writing in her popular Sunday Independent column Brighid’s Diary, Ms McLaughlin did not hold back on what she thought of the place and its inhabitants.
The writer’s gripes ranged from not being able to find a coffee shop for a latte to staying in an “outdated and fusty” hotel to ridiculing “the dour specimens” she met on her trip.
The journalist who resides in the affluent suburb of Dalkey in Dublin concluded: “My feelings on Fermanagh? Glad the other crowd took it.”
If she was looking for a reaction she definitely got one, with the Sunday Independent’s letters page devoting a whole section headed: “Readers respond to Fermanagh column”, such was the backlash to what she had written.
Readers from Fermanagh, Donegal, Tyrone, Tipperary and even her hometown of Dublin were scathing in their criticism of the writer’s musings.
“Article an insult to the community”, “Baffling criticism of a beautiful county”, “Demoralising read for people of Fermanagh” and “Sorry for your troubles, Brighid” were just some of the headings for the letters published.
Readers’ comments ranged from the journalist having “anti-Northern Ireland bias” and resorting to “a combination of xenophobia, cliches and fabrication” to accusations of “hate speech” and an offer of finding her “a good latte” if she ever came back to the county.
The local business community was not amused either.
Una Burns, bar manager of Charlie’s in Enniskillen, felt that the writer had come to Fermanagh with “an ulterior motive”.
“It all seemed premeditated. She couldn’t back anything up. From the hotel she stayed in, to the people she spoke to – there were no names used. There must be some facts if you are going to write such damning things about a county,” Ms Burns said.
“She came here with an ulterior motive and not to embrace Fermanagh at all.”
Irvinestown hotelier Joe Mahon said he had been inundated with complaints from people across the border about the column, who were “disgusted with it”.
Tanya Cathcart, marketing manager for Fermanagh Lakeland Tourism, was also very disappointed with the article.
“It has certainly upset a lot of previous visitors and locals alike as is evident from the recent responses. The Fermanagh Lakelands has welcomed a growing percentage of visitors from the Republic of Ireland market,” she said.
“Visitors regularly comment on the friendliness of people they meet here and are also delighted at how much there is to see and do in the area.”
However, despite all the bad press, an olive branch was still offered to Ms McLaughlin.
Bridie Gormley, who runs Dulrush Fishing Lodge near Belleek, extended an invitation to the columnist to come and stay there to see “the real Fermanagh”.
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