Blog: Call for Mauritius boycott is unfair
On a freezing Sunday morning at the end of January, a sports bag was found sitting on a footpath close to Dublin city centre. Measuring less that 2ft in length, the bag was stuffed with the lifeless body of a 26-year-old business student. Five months on, the killing of Malawian, Rudo Mawere, is not solved.
In Dec 1996, French film-maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier was killed in West Cork. More than a decade and a half later, the case remains unsolved.
Like the senseless killing of Michaela McAreavey during her honeymoon in Mauritius, these are cases where women had travelled to other countries for various reasons before their grieving families ended up taking their bodies home.
After a jury last week acquitted two men of killing Mrs McAreavey, the reaction has understandably been one of anger and frustration that justice has not been done.
There’s also been widespread disgust at a decision by a Mauritian newspaper to publish images of the crime scene, showing both the full-length, deceased body and close-ups of neck injuries.
But there has also been a rush to turn the tragic case into a dirty fight between two island nations.
Misplaced anger has seen many Irish people in public forums calling for a boycott of the paradise island — something which is likely to see ordinary people suffer.
Mauritius, having been through various colonisations, is one of the developing world’s most successful democracies and one of Africa’s few economic success stories.
It was reliant on sugar until it was hit by European trade preferences and has since diversified into a successful tourist destination.
About 106,000 people, or 8.5% of the population, live in extreme poverty, and for many, a job in the tourism industry is the only way of securing a comfortable life.
This is why it is irresponsible for opportunistic politicians to jump on the bandwagon in recent days by urging a boycott.
Last Friday, in the aftermath of the verdict, Seán Kelly, the Fine Gael MEP, wrote on his Facebook page that: "No Irish should visit Mauritius until justice is done."
Social media users had already set up online campaigns.
A picture was distributed on Twitter showing a map of the Indian Ocean island with the words: "This is Mauritius. Do not go here. Until we get justice for Michaela McAreavey cancel holidays and boycott this island."
Martin McGuinness, the North’s deputy first minister, was asked about the boycott, and said people should make up their own minds but he would not travel there.
On Monday, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore was asked to comment on a decision by a Donegal travel agents to stop promoting package holidays there. He dared not speak against a boycott, saying it was up to individuals to make up their own mind but that he would expect tourism to the island to drop.
People who use the lack of success in the police investigation as a justification for the boycott overlook our own statistics and those of countries with which Ireland has cultural similarities.
In the 20 years up to 2010, there were 176 murder cases in Ireland where gardaí have not even identified a culprit — averaging at about eight or nine a year.
In Britain, there is at least one unsolved murder a week, with 564 going unsolved in the past decade. Every year in the US, 6,000 killers get away with murder. In New South Wales, Australia, where a jury acquitted an accused of killing a young Irishman in February, there have been 400 killings that didn’t get to court in the past 30 years.
There is no doubt that police in Mauritius did not handle the investigation into Mrs McAreavey as they should have.
But there has been hints of racism in the rush to dismiss the justice system as a "shambles" when this is not the case compared to other countries to which Irish travel.
By the logic of those advocating a boycott, nobody should have travelled to Ireland after the unsuccessful du Plantier investigation. In that case, a key piece of evidence had to be dismissed when a witness claimed she had been under pressure by gardaí to make her statement.