Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Mr O'Donoghue in particular are both strong supporters of the Great Southern Hotel Group. Two of the hotels are in Mr O'Donoghue's constituency while Mr Ahern has made a habit of staying regularly in the group's Parknasilla property in Kerry.
However, with losses approaching €6 million last year and €3m the previous year, the company has been warning for some time that a solution will have to be found. The value of the group is thought to be in excess of €100m although operational costs are unusually high for the sector.
Of course the trade unions are up in arms saying they will go on strike and break off partnership talks if these hotels are sold. So now we have a situation where a group of semi-state trade-unionized workers are holding the ordinary taxpayers to ransom while not providing a useful return for the money pumped into them.
To add insult to injury the over supply of hotel rooms has been caused by tax reliefs given to people who build hotels. This is just one of many tax reliefs that costs the Irish State €2 Billion. So the taxpayer has to subsidize a chain of semi-state hotels that are in competition with private hotels which are also, indirectly, subsidized by the taxpayer.
Now Minister for Transport Martin Cullen thinks we need to invest €80 Million in the hotels. The State will probably then just sell them off, almost certainly at an overall loss, to some property developer who will probably get tax relief knock the old hotels and build apartments, which will be sold at inflated prices.
All of this occurs at a time when hundreds of Irish citizens are lying for days on hospital trolleys because there are not enough hospital beds for them to be properly treated. That is the ultimate irony and shows just how warped the trade unions view of life in modern Ireland is. What we should do is close these hotels and turn them into convalescence homes to which bed-blocking patients currently in hospitals can be moved while recovering. But of course that wont happen and the Irish taxpayer will continue to pay for hotel rooms they don’t want (and probably cant afford to stay in).