THE diaspora businessman behind the rescue of a recession-hit Donegal hotel which will feature on TG4 tonight has spoken for the first time of his pride in bringing jobs and helping the Irish language in mum’s home town.
Warren McCarthy is the London-born builder who stepped in to buy the Shandon Hotel in Dunfanaghy after years lying idle.
The first of a four-part documentary series – entitled An Shandon – will air on TG4 at 8pm this evening.
Most of the 130 staff are drawn from nearby Gaeltacht areas and Irish is spoken throughout the day-to-day running of the hotel.
Viewers will fall in love with many of the main characters who feature in the series.
“My mother is from here in Dunfanaghy and although I was born in London I was always drawn here; we came every summer to stay with my grandparents and I’ve loads of cousins here so it always felt like a second home,” said Warren.
“I would have come to the hotel for meals at the time so I’ve known it all my life.”
Three years ago Warren bought the hotel at an auction. It had been closed for five years after going bust during the early days of the recession.
Said Warren: “The hotel had been lying empty for a few years and I just thought I would try to do something with it. I’m in construction and interior fit-out so I knew what was needed but I’d never bought a hotel before.
“We started by opening the Spa because it had been successful in the past and it soon became booked out all the time. We were left with a 5-star spa but a hotel which really let it down so we took the decision then to modernise it.
“We were blown away after the first six months after opening. It took off so well. It’s a real credit to the team led by general manager Carolynne Harrison and she has been incredible and she has a team which has a real drive.
“We are probably already two years ahead of where we thought we’d be at this time.”
In the past the Shandon only opened for the summer season from Easter until September. Now it’s open all year round.
“That was key to our success,” said Warren, who started work on building sites and worked his way up through the industry.
“In order to get the right people I couldn’t offer nine-month contracts. We needed 12-month contracts to attract those right people.
“I’m very proud of what we have achieved here with the team here. As a family my mum is so especially proud of this hotel. This was her town, she was brought up here and when she comes home now she sees this landmark, owned by the family.
“It’s very satisfying to have this, and all the jobs it has created here. We have had tremendous support from local people.”
Viewers will see Warren’s mum Breda return to the hotel where a surprise awaits….her very own suite in the Shandon.
An Shandon, TG4, tonight 8pm