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7th Year Nr. 73 - Sunday, March 29th 2020.



By Viviane Vogels

“A hundred thousand welcomes” is the traditional greeting in Ireland and it does describe the warmth and the quality of the welcome one experiences in this lovely country.

Ireland is a lot of things, but first and foremost, there are the people! The Irish are fun, the Irish are friendly, the Irish are hospitable and…did I mention fun?....


A bit crazy?...definitely, but also professionals at making you feel at home within minutes of setting foot on this green island. On this occasion I went to Dublin to have a closer look at the different venues available to meeting and incentive organizers.

As an appetizer I was taken straight from the airport to Malahide Castle, an 11th century fortified castle with turrets – I fully expected Rapunzel to let down her long hair from one of the turrets!!, – and until recently the private home , for all these centuries, of the Talbot family. A place steeped in history which makes you dream of a horse & carriage, Malahide Castletorchbearers along the picturesque approach, flags, jousting…a great place to bring a group (unfortunately maximum 76 people) for drinks – free access to all the rooms- and dinner in the baronial dining room with minstrel gallery where, history buffs will be pleased to know, a number of famous characters dined on the eve of the Battle of the Boyne. Gossip also has it that a ghost roams around the castle…I did not have the pleasure…

The small village of Malahide by the sea is only a 10 minute ride from the airport but brings you immediately in picture postcard is quaint and does embody the idea what a typical Irish village should look like….then you look closer and realise this is an affluent village which even boasts a Michelin-star restaurant! In a prime location along the water lies The Grand Hotel, a recently renovated 150 bedroom 4 –star hotel with extensive meeting facilities and a great wellness & pool. I specifically liked the grand ballroom, easily converted into a meeting room with….great views of the coast...not every day you find a ballroom with a view!


Although only 8 miles from Dublin Center, my very entertaining driver Ciaran Ganter (Ganter Chauffeur Drive -+353 86 stadium230 2173), and I hit Christmas shopping traffic when driving into town to visit our next venue: Croke Park Conference Centre & Stadium. Rugby fans will know that momentarily the legendary Lansdowne Road Stadium is being completely renovated, so Irish Rugby has temporarily found a home in this stadium.
Croke Park is first and foremost the home of the Gaelic Athletic Visit Ireland at EMIF stand 3116Association, organizers of Ireland’s national games: hurling and Gaelic Football. It is a monument to over a century of successful promotion of the national games and their place in the social fabric of Ireland.  But Croke Park is more than just a sports stadium: The Croke Park Conference Centre has become on of the countries leading conference and exhibition venues. A number of international, domestic and local events are attracted to the venue by the excellent facilities and the welcome that awaits them.  Facilities are ideally suited for anything from a large conference to a small meeting, an awards ceremony to an exhibition, and all suites offer natural daylight and fantastic views over the pitch and stadium.
Recent additions to the facilities include a business centre and an impressive range of over 200 plasma screens which can be used for the display of logos and presentations.  This is in addition to ceiling-mounted multimedia projectors and large projection screens in the conference suites, broadband, WiFi, electronic blackout and lighting hanging points in the largest suites which feature six meter high ceilings. Opposite this imposing centre is the 4-star Jurys Croke Park Hotel with 232 bedrooms.


I had not set foot in Dublin for a number of years, and, although Ireland may be coming out of its Celtic Tiger phase of rapid development and rising prosperity, there is no mistaking the modern infrastructure that has been put into place. New construction everywhere, old parts of town completely renovated and an unmistaken buzz about the place, a vibrancy that I did not remember from before.

Dublin is alive and kicking, and although it had some lost time to make up for, it now has a professional set up that is pitching competitively for international business. A clear example of all this development is the Dublin waterfront in the bustling IFSC (Irish Financial Services Center) where the ‘chq‘– custom house quay – is an award-winning architectural masterpiece. This is where I discovered a delightful restaurant ‘ely chq’; it was the location for the great Crimean war Elybanquet in 1856 for the 4000 Irish soldiers lucky enough to return home. Designed as a wine and tobacco warehouse in the 1820s it is 930m² in size and can seat approximately 350 people. It houses ten subterranean vaulted cellars for dining, 2 boutique private wine tasting/dining rooms, a ground level glass atrium bar and an impressive outdoor waterside heated patio area (that seats 120 people) with beautiful flower boxes, cool glass awnings and outside heating. On the really cold days they even provide customers with cosy blankets to snuggle into.
The meal was outstanding, the service friendly as ever, the setting spectacular, a truly great venue for a group meal with a difference!


My second day started with the fastest site inspection ever at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. Set in the stately grandeur of its own formal landscaped gardens and tree lined avenues, the RHK exudes poise and nobility while also offering and versatile space for modern day use. This 17th century building is a unique blend of the old and new: it is home to the Irish Museum of Modern Art but also houses a magnificently restored and innovative conference and banqueting centre. It is one of Ireland’s premier banqueting venues and when I was whisked through the impressive halls I understood why. It is stylish, opulent and ideal for that special gala dinner. Our guide was in a hurry though and it all passed by me in a blur…mind you I saw enough to be truly impressed.


Ciaran and I then made track for what I personally had been looking forward to: the Guinness Storehouse!
Guinness StorehouseOne of the most, if not ‘the’ most well known trademarks of Ireland must be the pint of Guinness. The black and tan colours are universally known, a visit of Ireland without a taste of Guinness is definitely a wasted journey! The Guinness brewery, in the city of Dublin has created an intriguing centre on the premises of the historical – and still functioning!- brewery; the Guinness Storehouse is today Ireland’s foremost tourism attraction and recently welcomed it’s 1 millionth visitor!
The Storehouse was originally built in 1904 to house the Guinness fermentation process. This incredible building was constructed in the style of the Chicago school of architecture, with massive steel beams providing the support for the structure of the building. The Storehouse building housed the fermentation of Guinness beer until 1988, and in November 2000, the new addition to the Dublin tourism offer opened its doors.

The core of the Guinness Storehouse building is modelled on a giant pint glass, stretching up from reception on the ground floor to The Gravity Bar in the sky. If filled, this giant pint would hold approximately 14.3 million pints of Guinness!
Guinness StorehouseAt the head of the pint is the unique Gravity Bar, a place to relax and enjoy the uninterrupted panoramic views across Dublin City - it really is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Dublin.
The Storehouse is also home to a selection of architecturally unique event spaces. With stone floors, floods of natural daylight, unusual ceiling sculpture and metalwork features, there is definitely modernist feel about the place. The different floors sketch the making of Guinness the beer, the brewery, the family and provides ideal places for visits, drinks etc..
I can only confirm that even at 10.30 am a good pint of Guinness is tasty and I enjoyed my panoramic view of Dublin on a fairly clear winter day.


CCDAt the core of this visit lies the future jewel in Dublin’s crown: the Convention Centre Dublin, due to open in September of 2010! This iconic symbol of the city’s new wealth and confidence with its seven-storey glass atrium is located in the Spencer Dock Development on North Wall Quay, adjacent to the new Samuel Beckett Bridge on the river Liffey, within easy walking distance of the city centre.
On a very rainy and windy afternoon, I struggled into boots and a hard hat and walked through this amazing new construction, an eye opener for sure! The design by award winning Irish architect Kevin Roche reminded me of the bow of a big ship about to launch itself in the Liffey. Once inside the proportions and the technology are amazing and for once I do use the expression ‘state-of-the-art’ without misgivings. Watch the CCD preview film
Click here
Although a fairly compact building I was amazed at the enormous space inside starting with the level 1 enormous exhibition/banqueting hall, followed by the Liffey Suite on Level 2 and finally, when nearly out of breath I reached the top level, I could easily discern the huge Auditorium over 3 levels that will have a seating capacity of 2000 delegates. Seeing is believing, so I suggest you click here to view the short video on the CCD which will give you a detailed overview of all facilities on offer.

Just a few figures:

  • Total surface: 46.000 m²
  • 58 meter high glass-fronted atrium
  • Auditorium: 2.000 delegates, Liffey Suite up to 1.800 delegates theatre-style, Forum for 3040 delegates theatre-style
  • 4 multi-purpose halls, 11 meeting rooms, 4 boardrooms, accommodation for up to 8.000 delegates
  • 4.500 m² flexible exhibition and banqueting space

The CCD will also be a ‘green building’ and will get very high green recognition!
The CCD will be managed by the NEC Group Convention Centres whom we know from the Birmingham NEC and who auditoriumbring a wealth of practical international experience to the table.
Conference business is a long term business so when I asked if the building was proceeding according to plan, I was assured that the opening would take place as the first weeks are already fully booked! As a matter of fact, the CCD is taking bookings up to 2020! I also found out that further plans for expansion already have been put into motion, namely the development of a brand new Ritz Carlton Hotel next to the convention centre.
I did not count them but was assured that on a daily basis 200 workers beaver away to bring this project to its great conclusion next year, by next spring there will be more than 400 people at work on the site, a sign that the opening date is really taken seriously!
The centre will have its dedicated caterer, a concession which will be announced shortly.

I could bore you with figures and projections, but suffice to say that, with this new project, Dublin is definitely taking a big leap in the ranking of convention cities in Europe. A first rate, comfortable, high tech and modern convention centre, a human size city with a great choice of exceptional venues, hospitable & friendly people, stunning countryside, easy transportation and good food & drink…what more does an organizer want from a ‘value-for-money’ destination?.....

Dublin is also the perfect starting place for a day excursion to the beautiful and wild countryside of County Wicklow. Tours such as the Wild Wicklow Tour take you along stunning views and picturesque villages, past the houses of celebrities and the sites of many natural movie decors such as the Mel Gibson flick ‘Braveheart’.

For a fun evening out in Dublin, I can warmly recommend the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. Fortified with copious pints of Guinness (of course!) a couple of excellent actors introduce you into Irish Literature and take you along famous pubs which great authors such as Joyce, Shaw, Wilde or Beckett not only frequented but often mentioned in their works. An ‘award winning’ must do in the Irish Capital!

During my visit to Dublin I stayed at the recently renovated Westbury Hotel, a bustling, classy but friendly hotel, ideally situated just off the main shopping drag Grafton Street and near the best bars and restaurants, Trinity College and Aer LingusTemple Bar. (
Aer Lingus was the carrier of choice for this trip. For information on rates & reservations please contact or  or

There is so much I could and still want to tell you about the wonderful city of Dublin, its rich history, the fun to be had, the beautiful sites to behold, but if you have no time in the near future to go for a visit yourself, make sure you keep yourself informed of all the exciting developments by going to the website of the Tourism Ireland Brussels (avenue Louise 66 Louizalaan, 1050 Brussels. Tel: +32 (0)2 643 2121 where you can register for the regular newsletters with the latest information. Caoilin O’Callaghan ( will also gladly help you ireland logowith all your MICE inquiries.

Dublin is a destination rich in venues, with the most amazingly friendly people from where the rest of the country can easily be discovered, it deserves your attention in the coming years!

CaoilinMs Caoilin O'Callaghan
Tourism Ireland
Louizalaan 66 Avenue Louise
1050 Brussels

Tel. +32 (0)2 643 2125
Fax. +32 (0)2 642 9851

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