Eamonn made a big contribution to Kerry tourism

The late Eamonn McKeon was a giant in the Irish tourism industry.
Image source: RIP.ie

HE stood on the steps of the Killarney Great Southern Hotel one sunny day in August 2004 and extended the hand of welcome to then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who was paying a visit to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the landmark property.

As Chief Executive of the Great Southern Hotels Group, a position he had held since the mid 1980s, Eamonn McKeon was understandably proud of the hotel group he represented and he stood by the Taoiseach’s side as he unveiled a plaque to commemorate the hotel’s opening in 1854.

He remarked: “We are delighted to be celebrating 150 years of this wonderful hotel which has welcomed presidents, taoisigh, princes, sports heroes and film stars.

“It is truly the gracious old lady of hotels in Ireland and it has made a significant contribution to the success of Killarney as a premier tourist destination.”

Sadly, at the weekend, the death was announced of Eamonn McKeon who had a long and distinguished career in tourism, right up to the time of his retirement in 2016.

Eamonn McKeon (front, centre) at a reception several years ago to honour four staff members of Killarney Great Southern Hotel, front from left, Mary McKeown, Jackie O’Sullivan, Tommy O’Regan, Eamonn McKeon,Timmy Corcoran, Enda Joyce and Conor Hennigan, with, back from left, Patrick Crawford, Mossie Horgan, Michele King, Peggy O’Sullivan, Noreen O’Gorman, Mary O’Regan, Dan Neville, Eileen Howard, Richard Whelan, Kathleen Corcoran, Tom Leslie, Eleanor Joyce, John Sheehan, Freda Darcy and Paul O’Neill.

Frank Corr’s 2003 book on the history of the Killarney Great Southern Hotel, A Star Reborn, reflected on a huge amount of work that had been required to upgrade the hotel in the early 1990s, when Eamon McKeon spearheaded a major €14 million plan to modernise the building that was beginning to show its age in places while, at the same time, retaining its obvious Victorian charm.

During his time as group chief executive with the world renowned hotel group, Eamonn worked with several general managers in Killarney, including Brendan Maher, Denis Hurley, Michael Rosney, Eamonn Daly, Matt Sherlock, Eugene Mulrooney and Conor Hennigan as well as with Eugene Gordon and Pat Dooley in the Torc Great Southern and Jim Feeney in Parknasilla.

Prior to his role with the Great Southern Hotels Group, he had served as Executive Vice President of CIE Tours in North America and Chief Executive of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation.

He also held positions on several tourism-related boards, including the post of Chairman of CERT, President of the Irish Hotels’ Federation and Chairman of ITIC and, earlier in his career, he was a very highly-rated mentor in the in Shannon College of Hotel Management.

Originally from Sligo but living in Dublin, Eamonn is survived his wife, Carol, son Conor and daughters Órlagh and Sinead. He was father-in-law to Martin, Carina and Martin and grandfather of Conor, Harriette, Julie, Harry, James and Jack.

He is further survived by his siblings Martha, Breedge, Eileen and Eugene, extended family, relatives and friends.

Due to current government guidelines regarding public gatherings, Eamonn’s funeral service will take place privately for immediate family. Those who would like to attend but due to the current restrictions are unable to, may view the service live at 11.00am on Wednesday using the parish webcam available at https://foxrockparishchallenges.com/home/webcam/ or alternatively https://www.churchservices.tv/foxrock.

A private message of condolence can be left for the family using the following link https://www.masseybrosfuneralhomes.com/funeral-notices/.

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