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Wed 29 Nov, 2023
Wednesday 29 Nov, 2023

Kerry County Council
Co. Kerry

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Killarney’s top award for Margaret O’Donoghue of The Gleneagle Group
Recognising outstanding contributions to the economic development of the town and its tourism industry
 Wed 8th November 2023

Photo by Valerie O’Sullivan.

Margaret O’Donoghue of The Gleneagle Group is to be inducted into the Order of Inisfallen – the highest honour the town of Killarney can bestow. Having been to the forefront of the tourism industry throughout her life, Margaret will be honoured at a reception in the historic Muckross House and she will join a very elite list of previous recipients who have been recognised by Cairde Chill Áirne.

Margaret was one of 10 children born to Hannah and John O’Sullivan in Shanara, Beaufort. She attended school in Kilgobnet and Killorglin Community College and she began her working life in Killarney’s Great Southern Hotel. She first met Maurice O’Donoghue, who was then studying to become a pharmacist in Dublin, at a dance in Tralee in 1961 and they were married in 1964.

Maurice’s parents, Sheila and Paddy O’Donoghue, purchased Flesk House – a Georgian House sitting on four acres – and in 1957 they opened it as The Gleneagle Hotel. It had 12 bedrooms at the time but, together, Margaret and Maurice set about developing The Gleneagle into an all-inclusive holiday destination. From modest beginnings, it has flourished to become one of Ireland’s largest and most popular hotel groups.

The entrepreneurial O’Donoghue family went on to develop the incredibly successful Gleneagle INEC Arena – one of the flagship entertainment, conference and events facilities in the country – as well as the very popular Brehon Hotel, the Killarney town centre Scott’s Hotel, The Maritime Hotel in Bantry and a number of other key tourism properties.

The Gleneagle Group is now operated by a third generation of the O’Donoghue family, under the direction of Margaret and Maurice’s eldest son Patrick who is the chief executive officer of the Gleneagle Group.

The Cathaoirleach of Killarney Municipal District Council, Cllr Brendan Cronin, described Margaret O’Donoghue as the matriarch of a very iconic family that has been to the forefront of the tourism industry in Killarney, Kerry and Ireland for decades. “Margaret has been the guiding hand in all that the family has achieved and, given her enormous contribution over so many years, it is wonderful that she is being officially recognised with this very important award,” he said.

Margaret O’Donoghue said it is an honour to accept the Order of Innisfallen on behalf of both herself and Maurice, who passed away in 2001. “The Gleneagle wouldn’t be the success it is today without the support of the incredible staff that have worked with us down through the years, the many regular guests, families and friends who have always supported us and my own family who have taken over the reins,” she said.

The Cairde Chill Áirne Order of Inisfallen awards scheme is a joint initiative between Kerry County Council and Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce. It was established in 2005 to recognise outstanding contributions by people to the economic development of the town and its tourism industry. Those selected for the honour are invested as Members of the Order of Inisfallen.

Previous recipients include former Taoiseach Enda Kenny, actor Michael Fassbender, Charles, the King of England, entertainer Daniel O’Donnell, industrialist Isolde Liebherr and businessmen Donal Ring and Micheál O’Donoghue.

Inisfallen Island is one of Killarney’s best-known and most historic heritage sites. It began as a place of healing and became a major centre of learning where the Annals of Inisfallen, the oldest contemporary source of the history of Munster, were scripted.

The Order of Inisfallen award will be presented by Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Brendan Cronin, at Muckross House on December 11th and, later that evening, Margaret O’Donoghue will be the guest of honour at the Kerry branch of the Irish Hotels Federation’s Christmas Ball which will be held, appropriately, in The Gleneagle Hotel.

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