Spring Meeting of the AEHT Presidium and Executive Board
Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland,
March 3rd and 4th 2006
The Brehon hotel where the delegates gathered is located on the south side of Killarney, on the road that continues past Muckross House (of which more later) and over the stunning hills into Kenmare. Many of the rooms in the hotel look out onto the Macgillycuddy Reeks (what a name for a mountain range!), which had a sprinkling of snow during our visit.
Exquisite dinner at Foley’s Restaurarnt, Killarney
Despite some adventures and missed flights, the full Presidium gathered on the evening of Thursday March 2nd for a welcome dinner hosted by Mr Aidan Pender, Director of Fáilte Ireland at Foley’s Restaurant in Killarney High Street and enjoyed a delicious spread of seafood and steak; it is rumoured that some of the wilder membership went off in search of Killarney’s night spots after dinner, while most delegates went sagely back to their rooms to read the documentation for the meetings to come.
Mary Owens accompanying the Managing Committee to the Institute of Technology, Trallee
Early on Friday morning the Presidium set off by bus to the Trallee Institute of Technology, a state-of-the-art college on the edge of town, boasting a fine hotel, catering and tourism department where the Presidium met to prepare for the following day’s Executive Board session. Mary Rose Stafford, Head of Department Hotel, Catering & Tourism, was in charge of our welfare and proudly showed us the gleaming installations where some of the AEHT competitions would be held in November; a member of the college staff provided interpretation for the francophone members of our party (giving the AEHT’s house interpreter a welcome rest). A delicious lunch was prepared and served by the college’s students and we were greeted by Michael Carmody, Director, and Brian O’Connor, Head of School.
Mary Rose Stafford and Alfonso Benvenuto in the training restaurant of the Institute
Students preparing delicious chocolates at the Institute of Technology of Trallee
After a highly fruitful meeting, we set off while it was still just light enough to explore the Dingle peninsula, travelling via Camp and Anascaul to Inch Strand – the beautiful stretch of beach where the horse-riding scenes of Ryan’s daughter were filmed.
Presidium members walked along the beach, admiring the snow-covered hills against the background of the waves whipped up by an icy breeze and arriving here, we reflected, direct from America!
Boguslawa Pienkowska, John Rees Smith, Mary Owens and Akos Sasvari
By the time we returned to our base at the Brehon hotel, most of the Executive Board members had arrived, and before long we were off again (in two groups because some delegates were arriving later), this time to the West End House restaurant, a curious building in Killarney which was built in 1906 and had served as a school, a vicarage, and an army headquarters before becoming a restaurant in 1986.
Dinner at West End House hosted by the AEHT
We were out of bed bright and early on Saturday morning for the Executive Board meeting, held in a conference room on the fourth floor of the Brehon Hotel. Meanwhile the competitions sub-committee, chaired by Louis Robert, was hard at work in an adjoining room. Thanks to the Presidium’s hard preparatory work at their meeting the previous day, the Executive Board ran smoothly and finished on time, allowing the afternoon programme to proceed on schedule: a rapid lunch at the Killarney Park Hotel, followed by an excursion to the beautiful town of Kenmare, via part of the famous ‘ring of Kerry’ route and Moll’s Gap (Moll ran an illicit distillery) and Lady’s View (the lady in question is Queen Victoria who wondered at the scenery from here whilst on a tour of her dominions). Delegates agreed that the scenery was quite breath-taking.
But by five o’clock the day’s excitement was only just beginning: after a whirlwind tour of the facilities of the INEC (Irish National Events Centre) where many of the AEHT competitions will be held, we boarded another bus and were whisked off to Muckross House for a reception in the presence of John Donoghue, Irish Minister of Arts, Sport and Tourism.
Muckross House is a truly splendid mansion, an entirely fitting venue for such a glittering reception: Queen Victoria stayed here in 1861, and we are told that preparations for her visit began two years in advance! The bed where she slept can still be seen, though history is silent on whether or not the sheets have been changed since 1861.
As befits his office, the Minister arrived slightly behind schedule, allowing delegates to make a start on the hot whisky and to be thus in excellent spirits by the time of the ministerial entrance. However, ministers rarely miss a photo-opportunity, and before long the Presidium was outside on the terrace being photographed beside the Minister in a horse-drawn carriage; a fairly frisky horse made the photographer’s task somewhat difficult!
Reception at Muckross House in the presence of John Donoghue, Irish Minister of Arts, Sport and Tourism
After numerous speeches, some of them on somewhat parochial topics, it was time for the Minister to dash off to rejoin the ministerial helicopter; but no sooner had he left the splendid reception room of Muckross House than the AEHT President, Alfonso Benvenuto, remembered that he had brought a gift. So the Minister was summoned back to the reception to receive a present of an AEHT silk tie and CD-Rom. Several photoopportunities and speeches later, the Minister was on his way again, and the delegates swooped on the delicious food and drinks, certain French delegates wondering at the crime of mixing vintage Moët et Chandon champagne with Guinness to produce that dubious-coloured brew known as Black Velvet. Other wiser delegates savoured this magic combination of flavours and textures.
Still the day’s excitement was not over: some delegates had booked tickets for a Montserrat Caballé concert (time she retired, was the general consensus), while others dined to the strains of a harpist at the Brehon; the dinner was followed by a brilliant display of dancing accompanied by a lively traditional Irish band; and of course AEHT delegates were invited to the floor and performed brilliantly. It is rumoured that thereafter several delegates proceeded to the hotel bar to discuss important matters of AEHT policy far into the night.
Riverdance performance at the Brehon Hotel
The purpose of this Spring meeting of the AEHT Presidium and Executive Board is to allow national representatives to look over the accommodation and installations for the autumn Annual Conference, satisfying themselves that the premises and arrangements are up to scratch and can be recommended to the membership back home. In the case of Killarney the accommodation, the competition arrangements and above all the organising team came out with top marks. What a warm welcome in Killarney, and what a promising start to the preparations for the 19th AEHT Annual Conference and Competitions!
To give an example of the apparently effortless efficiency: your reporter and the Polish vice-president missed their Stansted-Kerry flight because of a vast traffic-jam caused by an accident on the M25 north of London: we booked a later flight to Shannon airport and phoned Anne Dearey to ask her what to do: leave it to me, she said, and hey presto, a limousine arrived right on time at Shannon and whisked us off to join the official dinner, only 40 minutes late. This efficiency set the tone for the rest of this weekend of meetings: everything worked like clockwork, with Anne Dearey and Eckhard Gogsch working invisibly in the background making sure that everyone had everything they needed, that no-one was left behind or went without dinner, and that it all happened dead on time! And so to the Sunday morning farewells – it all looks extremely promising for the 19th AEHT Annual Conference, see you again in November in Killarney, but with about 600 more people! We are very grateful to our Irish colleagues at Fáilte Ireland and the Institue of Technology of Trallee for looking after us so well, and we thank them in advance for all their hard work in preparation for the great event from 7th to the 12th November 2006. In particular we should like to record our thanks to: Anne Dearey, Eckhard Gogsch, Kevin Moriarty, Mary Owens and Aidan Pender, who made our short stay so pleasant.
The Lakes of Killarney