A few days on from Nationwide’s *ahem* ‘special’ on the Wild Atlantic Way and I’m trying to figure why the two state bodies of RTÉ and Fáilte Ireland are high-fiving each other on a job well done. Far from it I’d say. Now before anyone gets on to me about carping or whinging, this is called good old-fashioned constructive criticism, so relax. I’m all for the concept of ithe Wild Atlantic Way and the notion that at last, the west is getting the attention Mother Nature doled out to her a while back, but if this is termed a successful selling of it, then I’m the Shah of Iran, or the King of Tory even.
The problem was that it was RTÉ painting by numbers; we were given a lazy formulaic series of pieces complete with some token background trad music. The episode simply had no soul and was about as wild as a bingo night in Drimarone. Rarely did we get a sense of the raw wonder of it, the vibrancy, colour and splendour of its people and places. Instead we had Eileen Magnier fast-forwarding her way through Donegal, barely catching breath. Pat McGrath’s piece on Mayo was very flat – you’d never guess that Erris had just been voted the best place to go wild in the country by The Irish Times. Like its GAA team, Mayo deserved better.
The wooden spoon though goes to Cathy Hallorn who really failed to capture to magnificence of Clare, sticking instead to what must have been a school mate called Laura Foley who ‘heritaged’ us out a bit too much. Again, Loop Head won a major Irish Times award last year – you’d get no sense of why you should go there from that dull piece.
Finally, we had Maria Mullarkey telling us a smidgeon about done-to-death perennials Funghi the dolphin and Kinsale before coasting through the rest of the piece as a corporate video for Fáilte Ireland complete with its boss Shaun Quinn worryingly telling us that the wesht was knackered and that the Wild Atlantic Way was Fáilte Ireland’s response to diminishing numbers. Gulp.
Four uneven and varying pieces from four different personalties. A stodgy and somewhat wooden affair that really should have been canned or at least dealt with over say ten episodes as a proper series and one solid presenter with a love of travel and a natural curiousity – it would have made perfect RTÉ Summer schedule filler surely? The Wild Atlantic Way is a truly epic journey; 24 minutes equates to under one minute for every 100 kms, the piece could not and did not do it justice. They say that politics is campaigned in poetry and governed in prose. The same could be said for those regional news correspondents who are used to dealing with the prose of the local district court and not the poetic wonder of a very exciting new route.
What the national broadcaster missed though should not put people off. The trip is a personal one and the only true medium to enjoy it in is by getting on a bike, a car, a boat or shank’s mare and taking in that fresh sea air and doing your own homework – the route has loads to offer and is right on our doorstep at any time should we feel the urge to enjoy even a small piece of it. And for the record, the self-funded FREE Donegal App which is designed to help folk come to not just Donegal, but the north west, has been systematically ignored by Fáilte Ireland, despite us asking nicely for even just the odd tweet say. Too bad they do cartwheels when a one night special does a poor job of promoting it instead or when Norm from Cheers or the Kimye circus are passing by. It is now the height of the tourism season. Despite a so-called launch in February, Fáilte Ireland’s social media campaign for the Wild Atlantic Way only kicked in recently, their dedicated app for the Wild Atlantic Way promised in June is nowhere to be seen and the stand alone Wild Atlantic Way .com domain name is still parked under Blacknight. Giving a wee bit of attention to a bona fide Wild Atlantic ambassador who has had all of these in place since the start of the year would not have killed them, would it?