Donegal Mayor, Fine Gael Cllr. Noel McBride, said he believed the appointment of mentors, not liquidators, could help struggling businesses survive.
“My opinion in general terms would be that banks or financial institutions should change their strategy, from looking to appoint receivers or liquidators,” Mayor McBride said, responding to the news that the Milford Inn hotel had gone into liquidation. He said mentors could work alongside business owners.
The mayor said he was confident the Milford Inn would reopen. “But I’m also confident that if the institutions that appoint receivers or liquidators change their strategy, I think that given a period of time that those families and business people involved could work their way through it,” he said.
Mayor McBride said the Blaney family “were extremely hard workers, and the employment they gave there was certainly appreciated by everyone around the Milford area.” He said, “There’s a lot of people that will hurt” as a result of the liquidation, calling it “extremely sad that an iconic business like the Milford Inn has had to close its doors”.
Established in 1971, the Milford Inn employed about 55 people, though staff numbers rose to more than 80 during the high season. The Blaney Group announced last Thursday that the 33-bedroom hotel, which operates under the Best Western International brand, had gone into liquidation.
A message on the hotel’s web site said, “The Blaney family wish to thank all of their customers for their support in the Milford Inn and in the interim period of closure it is the family’s intention to facilitate the needs of those same customers in the Waters Edge Hotel, Rathmullan, which is open for business every day. The same applies to the other establishments in the Blaney Group, the Silver Tassie Hotel, Brewery and Central Bar in Letterkenny.”
Kenneth Bradley, manager of Integrated Resource Development Ltd. (IRD) in Milford, called the hotel closure “a hugely sad loss” from a business and community standpoint.
“Many good memories were made in the Milford Inn and it’s a pity to see that gone,” Mr. Bradley said. But he added that he was optimistic that the hotel would reopen.
Mr. Bradley said the hotel was not simply a large employer in the area, but a social hub as well. The Milford Inn was home to business meetings and other functions, a place where couples celebrated wedding receptions, and family and friends grieved and consoled each other after a funeral. The hotel also served as a base for the Fanad stages of the Donegal International Rally and hosted other large regional events.
“If somewhere closed down in Letterkenny town, they’d have something next door to go to,” Mr. Bradley said. But he said in Milford, “with all the losses we’ve suffered here, we’re getting another kicking.”
“It’s very difficult,” he said.
Mr. Bradley credited the Blaney family for investing in the hotel and in the hospitality sector in Donegal “at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, when a whole lot of people were getting out”.
John McAteer, editor of the Tirconaill Tribune, said competition in the hospitality sector in Donegal is particularly fierce. He said he was speaking with wedding musicians recently who said there are more than 50 venues in Donegal that host weddings.
By way of comparison, he said, “In County Tyrone there are less than 10.”