Ireland's largest tour operator Budget Travel is being wound up after a provisional liquidator was appointed at the High Court.

The company ceased trading this evening with the loss of 172 jobs and the closure of 17 retail shops.

The company was established in May 1975 and had a 30% share of the market.

A total of 747 people are on holiday abroad with Budget Travel.

The company says it is working closely with the Commission for Aviation Regulation to ensure plans are put in place to enable all customers to return to Ireland with the minimum of inconvenience.

For people who have booked holidays with Budget Travel, the company says it may be possible to arrange a similar holiday package with an alternative company.

Up to 380 people are due to fly out on holidays with Budget Travel between tomorrow and Sunday from Dublin and Cork.

Those flights have been cancelled and people can get a refund from Commission for Aviation Regulation.

Budget Travel Managing Director Eileen O'Sullivan said: 'This has been a painful and distressing time for us all and we deeply regret that this situation has arisen.

'We will do everything we can to minimise the impact of this decision especially on those who are currently travelling with us.'

A meeting between representatives of Budget Travel and the Commission for Aviation Regulation concluded this evening.

A spokesman for Budget Travel described the meeting as 'very constructive' and added that all Budget Travel holidaymakers who are due to travel home tomorrow will come home tomorrow.