This article explores the political structures that shape Irish tourism development and decision-making. Drawing on two controversial cases of tourism development in the West of Ireland-Mullaghmore and the Cliffs of Moher-this article illustrates how a limited consultation approach dominated by short-termism and political expediency has hitherto resisted any intentions among local communities and sustainability advocates to increase public participation in tourism planning. A comparison of these two cases reveals how the particularities of the Irish political system and the prevalence of a producer-orientated development paradigm combined to reinforce an exclusionary approach to tourism planning. This was further compounded by the persistent marginalization of local knowledge as well as a systematic lack of research on hosts' and visitors' attitudes. Ultimately, the argument presented is for greater recognition and social scientific engagement with the issue of political power structures and cultural practices that underpin tourism governance and the development of tourism destinations in Ireland.