After 16 years at the helm of Derry’s Visitor and Convention Bureau, the city’s tourism chief Catherine O’ Connor spent her last day in the job this week before embarking on what she’s hoping will be a happy and healthy retirement.
Catherine, who over the past two decades has presided over what many have deemed as a rebirth of tourism in the North West, is stepping down just days after it was announced that Derry will host the annual Fleadh Cheoil na h’Eireann next year.
While she firmly believes the city is on the cusp of the busiest period in its tourism history, the 63-year-old said this week she feels the time is right to hand over the reins to Acting Chief Executive Odhran Dunne. She says she’ll use her retirement to spend more time with her five children and eight grandchildren.
“I had decided last July that the time had come to hand over to someone else and while I told staff and those around me I didn’t want to make any public announcement until I knew the exact date and that was this week,” she said
Commenting on the bomb explosion at the DVCB offices a fortnight ago, the former tourism chief said she was saddened and frustrated when the offices were targeted but that staff had worked hard and quickly to get things back to normal. She said the attacks had no influence on her decision to stand down.
“It’s safe to say that I wasn’t a happy camper,” she told ‘The Journal’.
“I just couldn’t believe that anyone would target the visitor centre to try and make a point. I was so proud of the way everyone pulled together and staff went back to work in the offices as soon as they could.”
Catherine says she remains excited about the potential for great things in the city with its year as the UK City of Culture and the hosting of the Fleadh in 2013.
“I don’t think any of us fully realise just how big a year it’s going to be, the Fleadh in particular will be the biggest event we’ve ever seen and while I won’t be a part of the planning for that and other events I’m delighted that I’ll be able to relax and be a spectator of it all,” she said.
For the full interview with Catherine see this weekend’s Sunday Journal.