A Northern Ireland resort has apologised for causing offence by advertising a “bikinis and balaclavas” spa package, but said it would continue offering the service.
Rosnashane House in Ballymoney, County Antrim, drew criticism over the weekend for using the image of a woman in a black bikini and balaclava to market a spa treatment with gun range shooting.
The overnight package includes a hot tub, massage and the chance to fire handguns and machine-guns. “Round up the girls or boys for the perfect fun and pampering night out,” said its Facebook page.
Kenny Donaldson, a spokesperson for Innocent Victims United, which represents people injured and bereaved during the Troubles, condemned the use of garb associated with paramilitaries.
“This is truly appalling, depraved marketing. There will be fools who’ll say, but sure it’s just a bit of craic. No it’s not. Balaclavas and guns brought nothing but carnage to this society.”
Mervyn Storey, a Democratic Unionist party (DUP) councillor, said the advert, first reported in Sunday Life, was in bad taste. “There is nothing glamorous in using balaclavas and guns to promote any business. Where is the respect for victims of horrific violence?”
Paramilitaries continue to use balaclavas. Police last year seized and did DNA testing on two bin liners with 51 balaclavas that were suspected of being used for terrorist purposes.
Rosnashane House said it had not intended to cause offence. “As a business we have always strived to put our guests’ wellbeing at the forefront of everything we do. This has been one of our most popular packages since it was first announced over a year ago based around our onsite airsoft range,” it said in a Facebook post.
“Rosnashane House is a diverse company with a team made up of members both sides of the community, in addition to supporting many fundraising events for cross-community organisations. We apologise for any offence this may have caused.”
After hundreds of messages – most of them supportive – were posted, the company said it would continue offering the package. “Thank you for all the support and kind reviews regarding this package folks. It is here to stay.”
The statement did not specify if the image of a woman in a bikini and balaclava would stay. Ronashane House has been contacted for comment.
The Facebook comments that defended the marketing called it funny and harmless.
“Sure balaclavas are probably the most cross-community item of clothing in Northern Ireland,” said one comment. “I was a bit offended at first but only because I’m too fat to wear a bikini but sure no one will recognise me with my clava on!” said another. Another said: “Balaclavas are what made this country famous.”