Irish hospitality group iNua set to open first hotel north of the border

Cork-based hotel chain linked to new venture in Belfast

The five star Muckross Park in Killarney is part of the iNua Collection of hotels owned by Paul Fitzgerald (left) and Sean O'Driscoll (right).
The five star Muckross Park in Killarney is part of the iNua Collection of hotels owned by Paul Fitzgerald (left) and Sean O'Driscoll (right).

ONE of the Republic’s biggest hotel chains is on the verge of expanding north of the border for the first time, The Irish News can reveal.

The iNua portfolio of four and five star hotels includes the Hillgrove in Monaghan, Muckross Park in Killarney and the Hibernian in Kilkenny.

It also runs Radisson Blu hotels in Cork, Limerick, Athlone and Sligo, as well as Tullamore Court, Springfield Hotel (Leixlip), Fairways Hotel, The Gateway Hotel (Dundalk), Ariel House (Dublin) and Dublin One.

The company has already launched a recruitment drive for a new Belfast-based people and culture manager in order to develop a new northern workforce.

It's understood the hotel will be in the Belfast area, but it's unclear whether iNua will acquire an existing hotel, or take on one of the new hotel projects currently at the planning phase in the city.

The Irish News has learned the Cork-based hospitality group is in the midst of a transaction for the new Northern Ireland venue, with an official announcement expected in the coming weeks.

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Potential options for the group include the Radisson Blu Hotel in Belfast’s Gasworks, which was placed on the market in 2020 with a £16 million price tag.

There have been no reports of a buyer in the three years since its initial listing.

The Martin Property Group will also need an operator for its high-end hotel in the Scottish Mutual Building.

Industry insiders have also identified La Mon Hotel & Country Club as among the hotels within the Belfast vicinity, which are currently open to offers to sell and would fit the iNua portfolio.

Other Belfast hotels on the market include ETAP on Dublin Road and the Premier Inn on Alfred Street, while Rosspark Hotel in Kells went on the market in May 2023.

Santander’s former Belfast headquarters at Mays Meadow was also recently placed on the market as a potential hotel location.

In terms of hotels at the development phase, there is planning approval for three new hotels in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, including a 120-bed hotel in the former war memorial building on Waring Street.

The Dublin-based Press Up Group is also proposing its first northern hotel next to the Ulster Hall, while JMK has planning approval for a large new build hotel next to the Titanic Belfast museum.

The move north of the border comes less than two months after iNua completed a refinancing deal on eight of its hotel properties, reportedly worth around €70m (£61m).

The refinancing was provided by a group of lenders, including AllianceBernstein and Earlsfort Capital Partners.

The Irish hotel chain is owned by Sean O'Driscoll and Paul Fitzgerald, who led a management buyout of the company in early 2020.

Mr O’Driscoll is now chief executive of the iNua Collection, while Mr Fitzgerald is chief executive of the group’s new services business, Cliste Hospitality.