I heard the tail end of a radio commercial the other day. It was an ad designed to attract tourists to Limerick. It went ‘…come to Limerick and visit our medieval heart.’ That was it. No references to cobbled streets, old castles or ancient traditions. Nada.
But it got me thinking about Limerick. This is a city I haven’t been near since the bypass was built around it. And I’ve no regrets. I spent endless hours, en route to Kerry, stuck in traffic on Childers Road with young lads galloping their horses in the adjacent fields. I don’t miss having the car in lock-down as I drove past the council estates littered with burnt out cars and daubed with graffiti. I don’t miss the plaintive wails of my children in the back seat asking if we were still in ‘stab city’.
But what might actually attract me there as a tourist? What do I think of, when I think of Limerick? Sadly, the list is quite short.
St John’s Castle
South Hill etc
The lovely new tunnel under the Shannon
Would I want to go there for any of these? I’d go to Thomond Park for a match or a concert or even for a behind the scenes type tour. I’ve seen quite a few castles in my time so I’m not really bothered about St John’s and, anyway, Bunratty is just out the road and that has a little folk park too! I’ve no interest at all in Frank McCourt’s miserable childhood so there’s nothing doing there either.
Now gang wars and South Hill and all of that… There is definitely an opening here for an edgy tourist experience. I’d be interested to see where these guys live, where their enemies live, where various attacks have taken place and hear the whole gory story. I’d like to see the kind of women that partner them. It’s not a pleasant thought I’ll admit but I’m sure that I’m not the only one with this voyeuristic streak. The tours could be conducted in pimped up cars driven by boy racer lookalikes. A few donuts on the new motorway could be thrown in for effect. And, when the adrenalin fuelled tour of gangland is over a quick exit can be made via the tunnel – with a Garda car in hot pursuit.