Rowdy tourists: Ireland's consul general slams 'racist' ethnicity assumptions

A leading Irish figure has slammed media reporting of a group of rowdy tourists as Irish, and says the group's actions have distracted from larger issues.

The group of tourists have been accused of leaving a trail of destruction across Auckland and Hamilton - including littering at Takapuna Beach; allegedly abusing beachgoers; fleeing restaurants without paying bills; and causing damage to an apartment building.

One of the tourists, Tina Maria Cash, was convicted on Wednesday of two charges related to the theft of rope, energy drinks and sunglasses from an Auckland Caltex, and ordered to pay reparations.

The tourists were originally reported as Irish travellers, with many on social media commenting upon their accents as sounding Irish while reports surfaced of the family telling locals they were Ireland residents.

However, NZME later reported that members of the group instead identified as English.

Now, Niamh McMahon, Ireland's honorary consul general to New Zealand, has criticised reporting of the group as Irish and what she calls racist remarks from people on social media levelled at the group's behaviour.

As reports of the group's behaviour at Takapuna Beach surfaced, Ms McMahon told Newshub the consulate's Facebook page began receiving comments from Irish people apparently embarrassed by the group's actions while others made "racial slurs" towards the ethnic group.

"That is unacceptable and it's quite hurtful to the local community here, who contribute greatly to the New Zealand community and have a strong presence here, and between two countries that have very strong relationships."

However, as the story unfolded and reports of the tourist's Irish background were questioned, commenters began asking why they were judged to be Irish.

"Short of seeing people's passports, to say that they are Irish or they are from the UK or whatever, is not known fact," she said. "Their nationalities really shouldn't have come into it.

"There are many people who live in New Zealand that don't sound like your traditional Kiwi person... We've had people belong to ethnic communities who are as Kiwi as you get, but don't speak the same... we've got to be very careful about that."

While many online have commented that the group's accents clearly sound Irish, Ms McMahon said the group was large and members could come from different areas.

"We could delve into a dangerous area by trying to judge people by the way they speak," said Ms McMahon.

"I think judging people by their accent, putting an ethnicity on them, and identifying certain traits that might go with that ethnicity is dangerous stuff. It is wrong, it is outright wrong."

Rowdy tourists: Ireland's consul general slams 'racist' ethnicity assumptions

She also doesn't want the group's behaviour to distract from other issues or negatively affecting the reputation of the Irish with Kiwis.

"What I don't want to see is any damaging of that relationship, and nor do I want to see any conclusions drawn about people, who they are, what they are," she said.

"I would hope for a fast resolution, and we can focus on other issues like what is happening with Brexit in the UK and Theresa May overnight and how that affects Ireland."

Ms McMahon said New Zealand's resident Irish ambassador, Peter Ryan, is currently out of the country but across the events.

On Tuesday, members of the group were served with a deportation liability notice. If they are deported, the group face being banned from New Zealand for five years.

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz