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Tullamore Court Hotel has played a key role in the local community for 20 years

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Tullamore Court Hotel has played a key role in the local community for 20 years thumbnailThe team at the Tullamore Court Hotel, including staff members who have served at the hotel since day one in November 1997, pictured at the front entrance.

THE Tullamore Court Hotel has become an integral part of the wider community in the Offaly county town and its wider hinterland in the 20 years that have elapsed since its doors first opened to the public in November 1997.

"As Tullamore has grown and prospered we have grown with it,'" reflects the hotel's General Manager, Philip O'Brien as he and his team prepare to mark the popular landmark's 20th anniversary today [Wednesday, November 1].

This afternoon an open day will be held at the hotel from 12 noon to 3 pm with a host of giveaways and Midlands 103 will broadcast live from the venue.

Though the hotel opened its doors for the first time on Saturday evening, November 1 1997, when Charlie Landsborough staged a sell-out concert, the actual official opening of the venue was performed by the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern in early 1998.

Philip O'Brien said the presence of the hotel in the town, which now boasts 103 bedrooms, together with associated leisure and car parking facilities, was a major factor in Tullamore attracting major national events such as Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann and the National Ploughing Championships and the World Peat Conference

And in the two decades which have passed since the hotel commenced trading it has borne witness to some of the most important events in the community life of Tullamore, Offaly and the Midlands.

Perhaps the headline occasion at the hotel over the past 20 years was a series of events held to mark the European Union summit of Foreign Ministers held during Ireland's EU Presidency in 2004. 

Leading political figures from throughout Europe were present at the hotel while hundreds of media personnel from across the globe covered the summit for a worldwide audience.

Security for the summit was intense and many locals will remember the presence of Garda snipers on the roof top of the hotel.

The hotel has also been interlinked with the growth of major employers in Tullamore and the development of the IDA Industrial Estate at Sragh coupled with the growth of its indigenous industries.  

Said Mr O'Brien: "Many of these companies need the facilities which only a top class hotel can deliver."

"We [the hotel] are a key component on offer to industrialists and companies who may wish to develop or expand their existing companies or indeed for new companies to locate in Tullamore in the future because of the quality of the lifestyle available here and affordability the area has to offer,' stressed Mr O'Brien.

In tandem with these headline roles, the hotel has also played host to a myriad of community occasions as well as the entire range of family events for thousands of locals.

"One of the first couples who celebrated their wedding with us was Larry Claffey and Orla Leonard, Larry is a butcher in Kilbeggan and he requested his own beef be served at the wedding and since then his beef has been a staple on the menu at the hotel. On the Sunday, Offaly Enterprise Board held the first ever conference in the hotel, "Women Mean Business."

Philip O'Brien, a Cork native, has been an integral part of the team at the Tullamore Court Hotel from day one when he joined as Head Chef before rising to the post of General Manager.

He still recalls the opening day in November 1997 with fondness.

Staff loyalty and dedication is a hallmark of the hotel and eleven serving members of the team have served there since 1997.

In total, a whopping 67 staff members have been with the hotel for over ten years, a key statistic which tells its own story.

Dominic Doheny, Joint Managing Director of John Flanagan Developments, added: "When you walk through the hotel what really makes you proud is the sense of community you get from the employees."

"When we are showcasing the hotel we see the amount of people who are still with us from day one . . . these people are very rounded and community oriented."

Mr Doheny said some workers who joined the hotel's staff in 1997 did so after the closure of a major local employer, Atlantic Mills. "They were in their late 40s then and might not have secured other employment locally and are now reaching retirement after serving for two decades in the hotel."

John Flanagan Junior, who was one of the key players behind the development of the hotel in the mid and late 1990s, said Tullamore had been crying out for such a development at the time.

"We had no hotel of consequence and very little bedroom capacity,' he told the Tribune this week.

'Major, and even smaller, business meetings and conferences had to take place in other towns in the region, such as Athlone, ' recalled Mr Flanagan adding: "We could see there was a market for a hotel of this standard, we put a plan together and purchased the site from the late Seamus Mahon and then we [Flanagan Construction] built it."

His comments are echoed by Dominic Doheny who recalled the company put huge research into the development of the hotel including visiting every hotel of note in Ireland .

"A major hotel was something that had been talked about in Tullamore for a long time. There were only two small hotels here then, the Phoenix Arms and the Moorhill. Tullamore was developing at pace in the early 90's and the demands from an expanding town was evident to us. "

"As a development company we had a lot of engagement at the time with the IDA about foreign direct investment [FDI] into the town and they kept repeating that a hotel was need to properly showcase a town of this size."

He added: "It was only with the building of the hotel that the final box was ticked in order for Tullamore to compete with other towns on an infrastructure basis for FDI."

Mr Doheny stressed that the first indoor swimming pool in town only came on stream with the completion of the hotel.

"It meant we could compete for many national and regional events for the first time,' stressed Mr Doheny, who is also the current National President the Construction Industry Federation.

As well as the construction workforce coming from the general area, under the capable leadership of foreman Jim Larkin, a host of local companies were involved in the construction phase including Condron Concrete, Glenwood, Tullamore Carpets, T & C Wood, Kilsaran, Readymix, and Heatwise.

An array of local companies continue to supply the hotel to this day including Buggy Foods, Casey Vegetables, Victor Egan and Claffey Butchers in Kilbeggan.

This community ethos has also been to the forefront of the work of Flanagan Construction throughout the years.

Coupled with the creation and much needed direct employment the advent of the hotel also meant many indirect jobs coming on stream in suppliers or in the town at large through increased footfall, said Dominic Doheny.

"The footfall though the hotel annually is 450,000 approx people,'revealed Mr Doheny: "Many local shops and businesses know when there is an event on in the hotel as there are new faces in town, shopping and doing business."

The hotel was built on the site of the former home of the famous Offaly GAA family, the Furlongs - family home of Mick,Tom and Martin, who have brought so much pleasure to GAA fans in the town and county over the years.

Fittingly the bar in the hotel is named, the Furlong Bar and one of the most memorable occasions in the history of the facility was the official opening of the bar by the then President of the GAA, the late Joe McDonagh from Galway.

Former Offaly and Tullamore player, Paddy Fenning a team mate of Martin Furlong, played a major role in sourcing the GAA photographs and memorabilia which adorn the Furlong Bar ensuring the Furlong name and their contribution to Tullamore and Offaly GAA will not be forgotten .

"GAA affairs have always been at the heart of the hotel's story,' said John Flanagan Junior.

"Tommy Lyons and the Offaly team of 1997 celebrated league and Leinster championship success here and only recently Tullamore GAA Club marked the 40th anniversary of their triumphs in 1977 at a gala function at the hotel,' he outlined.

Meanwhile, today [Wednesday, November 1], another milestone in the history of the Tullamore Court Hotel will be marked with the open day from 12 noon to 3 pm to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

An open invitation is extended to one and all from the community to attend the event and take part in the 20th anniversary celebrations.

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