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David Keaney

Hospitality and Tourism student completes first ever internship at Áras an Uachtaráin

David Keaney from Donegal feels highly privileged to have been selected as the first ever intern to complete a fifteen-week placement as household staff at Áras an Uachtaráin.

David has been studying at ATU Donegal on the Killybegs campus and will be graduating this autumn from the Bachelor of Arts in Hotel, Restaurant and Resort Management. David always had a keen interest in the hospitality industry. An avid fan of fine food and beverages, he took his first step towards success when he set up a mini company selling home bakes as part of a Transition Year (TY) project.

“The TY project gave me an appetite to continue. I received a large order for home bakes that Christmas and my mind began to race with ideas. I then received predicted grades for my Leaving Certificate, and this allowed me to focus on setting up a coffee trailer. The trailer turned out to be a successful business better known as ‘The Weighbridge’ and was located at the Heritage Railway Museum in Donegal Town. I have since moved on but the trailer is still open”, says David

Fuelled with ambition and innovation, David embarked on the next step of his educational journey and began his studies at ATU. In year one, he got the feel for college and instantly was drawn to specialised restaurant and mixology modules. During year two, David began his first work placement.

“I undertook my first work placement as part of the programme at Ashford Castle. This was a once in a lifetime experience. It is Ireland’s only two Forbes Five Star Hotel and I loved this experience. The luxurious service that is provided by the establishment offers guests an extraordinary experience and I was delighted to have been a part of the team. I got an employment offer to stay on for two years and work in every department but with one year of study remaining and travel plans on my mind, I declined the offer”, says David

David worked in bars and restaurants throughout his years at college and every job or placement that he completed opened new doors and opportunities and sparked new ideas.

In his final year of college, David interviewed for an internship as a member of the household staff of Áras an Uachtaráin and was delighted to be offered the position. The Office of Public Work (OPW), on behalf of the state, manages the Áras and this was their first time to offer such an internship. This unique opportunity allows a student to join the professional staff there for almost four months, receiving in-depth and hands-on experience at the highest levels of service. David was a success at interview and was offered the position.

“I was delighted to finish out my programme completing a fifteen-week placement serving the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. The placement involved looking after the President and guests. During my time on this placement, I also served President Joe Biden, Paul McGrath and the Maltese President, H.E. Dr George Vella.”

“The experience at Áras an Uachtaráin was absolutely phenomenal. It was a high-quality service and everything was done to a fine art. The training was exceptional. Everyone was trained to a high standard and the quality of service was the same across the board. It was a dynamic environment and everyday was different. I feel honoured to have had this opportunity and to have been the first intern to complete the position”, enthuses David.

“The programme at ATU gave me the skills that I required to slot into these roles and the lecturers have been encouraging and offer advice at every step of the way. I have built great relationships with the lecturers and their professionalism has inspired me on my journey”.

There’s no doubt that David has a bright future ahead in the industry. He has gained an abundance of experience working in different workplace settings and his ambition is infectious.

“My short-term plan is to finish my role as logistics manager for a Dublin based company in the drinks industry who cater for summer festivals. We have a busy summer ahead. Long term, my goal is to open my own restaurant and wine bar. I plan to travel to the States soon to scope out the opportunities in the area. I am young and I feel like I have a world of opportunity that awaits me. I am excited for the next chapter”, concludes David.

The BA in Hotel, Restaurant and Resort Management has now been renamed to BA in Tourism & Hospitality Operations (AU221)/BA (Hons) in Hospitality Management (AU322)