New tourism darkens West Cork region

By Katie O'Keeffe

The influx of people visiting a notorious murder site in West Cork is causing anger among the locals.

Politicians, business owners and residents have spoken out about their dismay of people making an attraction out of a tragedy.

Following the release of Sky’s ‘Murder At The Cottage’ and Netlix’s ‘Sophie: A Murder In West Cork’, Schull is now appealing to a different type of tourist know as a ‘murder tourist’. Murder tourism also known as dark tourism is defined as tourism involving travel to places historically associated with death and tragedy. The main attraction to these locations are their historical value rather than their associations with death and suffering.

For almost 25 years, the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier has gripped Ireland and France. On 23 December 1996, the 39 year old French film producer was found dead near her holiday home in Toormore near Schull. It was the first murder to occur in the area in living memory and is still fresh on locals minds to this day, as the case remains unsolved.

With the recently released documentaries trending worldwide in recent weeks it is no surprise that people are touring West Cork for more than the Wild Atlantic Way.

People have been flocking to the site of du Plantier’s holiday home near Schull and have been taking selfies at the Celtic cross marking the place where her body was found.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, Cork South West Senator Tim Lombard expressed his dismay at the people who are visiting the sites for ‘entertainment purposes’.

He said: “There is certainly an element of a weekend away to solve the murder happening, families and friends keeping in touch with each other on WhatsApp as they retrace the last steps Sophie would have taken.”

Senator Lombard feels a lot of these people believe they can actually solve what they would describe as a ‘murder mystery’.

“West Cork has so much to offer and it is unfortunate these people only want to focus on the tragedy.”

Locals and business owners have even experienced people asking them questions about what they know and if they can show them where the events took place.

One local who wishes to remain anonymous told the Cork Independent that they have noticed a difference in the type of people who are visiting the area. “They are not here to visit West Cork for its beauty and culture, they are visiting for the worst thing we have dealt with as a community, and we still deal with it. Until it is solved, we will all carry this with us, so I feel it is not an area that people should actively be trying to visit for the sole purpose of a murder.”

Another local who spoke in confidence to the Cork Independent said they have no problem with people visiting the area. “A lot of people are curious and into crime documentaries so I can understand why they would want to see the area. We have grown up with it, so we are used to it reappearing in the headlines every now and then”.

Cork South West Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’ Sullivan believes if people are going to take time to visit West Cork then they need to visit for the good reasons.

He said: “West Cork could position itself as the European centre of adventure tourism. There are many different offerings of adventure e.g. kayaking, kite surfing, whale watching. We have the second biggest animal that has roamed the planet on our doorstep this is what people should see as what West Cork has to offer.”

He continued: “There is nobody here who wants to benefit from this tragic event.” However, he believes some people who have watched the documentaries were definitely intrigued by the scenery shown in them.

“While these events were tragic, there were certain moments in the documentaries where west cork was shown off in its full beautiful glory and if that is reaching millions of people then that’s a good thing.”