Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Firstly, reports of our demise are well exaggerated. If you were to believe reports in the media and the web this week the Hayatt Hotel Group have bought the Grand Canal Hotel.
Well fear not my friends. We are and will remain an Irish family owned hotel for a long long time. The property the media are referring to is in fact the Grand Canal Square Hotel which is lying unfinished and vacant just opposite the Grand Canal Theatre.
I attended the Kylie gig last week and while I didn't get quite as excited as a certain Irish TV personality, I was none the less hugely impressed. What a show. While Kylie's musical repertoire hardly rivals Bob Dylan or even Madonna, she is an entertainer.
Taking obvious borrowings from U2's stunning stage productions over the years the gig was much more than about the music. Kylie seems comfortable with the fact that she doesn't have the songs to carry such a large venue but entertains heroically, backed up by dazzling lights and fire works.
The one thing that took me back was that it was full. This is not a reference to Kylie's popularity but rather that even in such recessionary times that people are still going to gigs in such numbers.
I mean look at the poor FAI and to a lesser extent the IRFU. Attendances at the Aviva Stadium have been disappointing to say the least. But the O2 consistently hosts touring artists who sell out.
Almost every show that has visited the docklands venue has had the "no tickets available for this date" come up on a search on Ticketmaster. From X-Factor, the Script, JLS, Katie Perry and of course Justin Bieber.
And going forward things are looking just as rosy for the Live Nation run O2 Dublin. Peter Kay, Westlife, Roger Waters, Glee, and Colin Farrell's new squeeze Rihanna have all still to visit the O2 Dublin.
Of course at this stage I have to plug the success of our O2 Package, which has been busing people over to The O2 for over a year. And it doesn't surprise me. You break down the price. A pre-show meal in Dublin could cost you anything up to €30, god knows how much for the taxi or train, €40 each for the hotel and at least €10 for the breakfast.
At the Grand Canal Hotel we can offer you car park, pre-show meal, return transfer to the gig, night's accommodation and your full Irish the next morning for just €79pps. Throw on another €20 and you can get return rail from anywhere in the country.
Click here to book the O2 Package or check here for what is going on in the O2 over the next year.

Ollie McGrath.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Fair play to Simon O'Connor and the guys down at the City of a Thousand Welcomes. This is a new site which is, on one hand asking Dubliners to become Ambassador's and with the other, offering visitors the chance to meet with one of the said Ambassadors for a pint to learn about the city.

This, well timed with the St Patrick's festival kicking off, project has plenty of merit. One of Ireland's greatest selling points is our culture and our people. We are famous throughout the globe for the Cead Mile Failte (a hundred thousand welcomes in Irish).

Some of Ireland's favourite sons and daughters have already signed up to be ambassadors, including Presidential hopeful Senator David Norris, actress Victoria Smurfit and former Miss World Rosanna Davison (how nice would it be if you could request the person to meet you!!!).

Tourism has slowed down in recent years, chiefly down to the world recession, but also, and not to the same degree, due to the perception that Ireland is expensive. Unfortunately we cannot control the first part of my last statement but we have made huge inroads into the latter statement.

But that message has to be gotten out there to the world's masses. I would suggest that if you were to ask anyone from outside Ireland what they think of when you mention the Emerald Isle, outside the usual steryotpes and movie/music stars, people will talk about scenery, craic and of course friendly people.

I was touched by a story, written by an Irish journalist who is covering the tsunami tragedy in Japan. He tells of how he was staying in a hotel near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant when he got a knock on his room door telling him they were evacuating everybody because of an explosion at the plant. He had now where to stay when a local, who didn't have a word of English, offered him a mattress in his family home. Irish people are a similar breed.

So why not get out there and sell one of our greatest tourism strengths...the people. So I've signed up to be an Ambassador.

Any visitors looking to take advantage of the new project go to and of course...ask to meet OMG.

See you soon,

Ollie McGrath (OMG).

Thursday, March 10, 2011


First of all a Definition:

What is a leprechaun?
The leprechaun is a character of Irish Mythology. He is about 2'6" (75cm) tall. He is very rich but extremely tricky and if you catch one don't take your eyes off him, or he will disappear! He is a very slick talker and loves a bit of fun...or so the website tells us.

Not sure now, but at some stage over the last month or so I came across the National Leprechaun Museum. It jumped out at me like a rabid dog in Resident Evil.

At first I presumed that it was some Irish American gimmick in Boston or Chicago. You see Leprechaun’s are a stigma that Irish people do not like to be associated. Unfortunately for us like U2, Riverdance and the Celtic Bust for most foreigners the mere mention of Ireland evokes images of the Leprechaun, similar to the way the English are associated with bolar hats.

This Irish stereotype is rampant the world over and the Simpsons, Family Guy, Darby O’Gill and even Scrubs have all used the Leprechuan to represent the Emerald Isle. The mere mention of Leprechauns’ to an Irishman will be met with a feckless roll of the eyes or a tut, so when Tom O’Reilly came up with the concept of a museum he was certainly taking risk by adopting the red haired midget. Indeed Tom has been more or less shunned by the Irish tourism machine. No self regarding politician or Lord Mayor is going to give the press an opportunity to be seen near a Leprechaun…especially in Dublin.

So a year to the day that they opened, and purely coincidently I might add, old Ollie here strolled in to speak to museum manager, Craig Burnett. He kindly, considering I just dropped in, gave me a tour of the facilities.

The museum is well located along the Luas line and just a short stroll from the new “Italian Quarter” in an up and coming part of Dublin. A word of advice though, don’t just head into the city thinking you can find it. Although there are plenty of directional signs around Temple Bar, the trail goes dead once you hit the Liffey, as the guys in the museum have been told they are not allowed put directional signs on the North of the city…hmmm.

So first and foremost…what to expect. Don’t expect wax works of midget red haired, bearded men. There is actually not a huge amount of images etc of Leprechauns. Refreshingly what you actually get is a real experience of how story telling has developed from ancient Ireland from shanachies (old Irish story tellers).

See what most people don’t realise is that Ireland has as rich a methogical culture as Greece and Crete, thanks mainly to pre Celts and early Celts suspicion of putting stories down in words. There are very few records of writings on early settlers in Ireland with most of the evidence coming from the Tain. (I stand to be corrected on my history). Instead what happed is that stories were past from person to person, generation to generation by word of mouth, therefore opening every passing to exaggeration. As each person embellished the story as they past it, myths were born.

Cuchalain, Fionn McCool, Queen Maeve, Banshee’s, Fairies and of course Leprechauns are all explored. The museum was started off essentially as an art project and you get a real sense of that as you go though the building. Wooden structures, light shows and dazzling displays litter the walk through. Craig also tells me that the tour guides are in fact qualified actors who literally take on the forms of Shanachies as they take visitors along the experience.

Each tour is tailored to the visitor and the stories tend to change focus based on that. I can see how it would appeal to children, adults and even stags or hens who would probably enjoy the leprechaun room with its giant table and chairs as much as the infants.

There have been over 70,000 people through the doors in the first year which is quite remarkable considering the lack of publicity and support they have got. This is not a gimmick people and very much holds its own with the major visitor attractions of the city.

The Irish tourist authorities should embrace this and give them as much support as they need. You get the feeling that Craig and Tom are only beginning and this is a working canvas.

There is a pot of gold on Jervis Street for Irish Tourism. Somebody in Failte’s Amien Street office just needs to open their eyes to see it. Follow the Rainbow guys!!!!

The Leprechaun Museum is located in Twilight House, Jervis Street, Dublin 1. The cost of a tour is €10 for Adults and €8.50 for children with under 3s free. Visit for more details.

Ollie McGrath (OMG).