I try not to take pleasure in the thought of David Cameron swimming in the nip off the Antrim Coast or in any other way ally myself with the thousands, maybe millions who recently have enjoyed thinking about Cameron’s prime ministerial parts shivering in the grip of our scrotum-tightening waters. Maybe it never happened. Maybe the British PM pulled on a pair of manly swimming trunks before wading in. Maybe clever Adrian Morrow, managing director of Glenarm Castle Estate, tossed the dip-in-the-nip idea into the media mix, knowing the story would have legs (like Cameron himself, I expect).
But while we all can’t help but thrill to the thought of Cameron naked, I find myself pulling away from the idea of tourism, which is what Kerrie McGonigle of Moyle District Council expects will swell in response to the Cameron unzipped story. “We are hoping that will boost our numbers this summer” she says.
Now I know tens of thousands of Irish people depend on tourism for a living, and God knows making a living these days ain’t easy. But I wish there was some other way than tourism to do it, because it brings out the worst in us. Quite right – we are a friendly people, especially to outsiders who’ll be here for just a while. But when you blend in the fact that what we really want is their money, it begins to look more like a gold-digger story than a love story. Yes, I’m being nice to this big Yank because I’ve a naturally nice disposition, but I also want him to give me his money for a bed, for a meal, for a car hire, for a trip in a jaunting car, for all the other amenities we lay on with a smile on our Irish gobs and an Irish eye cocked at their wallets.
Worst of all, tourism brings out the Cringe Factor in all of us. “So – how do you like the Antrim Coast?” Or Belfast or Derry or the Mourne Mountains or Glendalough. We practically get an emotional arm-lock on them and force them to give us the “Wonderful/Super/I’m-passing-out-with-pleasure” answer. Dear God – I know there’s no money left anymore but isn’t there even a smidgin of dignity?