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Businessman Tony O’Reilly dies after short illness

Tony O’Reilly, the former owner of the Independent and Belfast Telegraph newspapers, has died in Dublin following a short illness.

Mr O’Reilly, 88, was one of Ireland’s leading business figures.

He built an international media business which at one stage owned more than 100 newspapers.

He eventually lost control of the business in a boardroom battle and was personally bankrupted late in life.

In a statement on Saturday night, his family said: “In the coming days there will be many worthy tributes made to Tony O’Reilly’s unique and extraordinary achievements in the fields of business and sport.

“As well as his extraordinary philanthropic vision which was best evidenced by the establishment of the Ireland Funds at a dark time in this island’s history.

“But, for us, he was a dearly-loved dad and a granddad.

“He lived one of the great lives and we were fortunate to spend time with him in recent weeks as that great life drew to a close.”

Mirrorpix via Getty Images Tony O'Reilly, a 33 year old recalled to play for Ireland after 7 years away from the game. 13th February 1970.
Tony O’Reilly, pictured as a 33-year-old, who was recalled to play for Ireland after seven years away from the game

Born in Dublin in 1936, Tony O’Reilly made his international debut for Ireland in rugby in 1955 and became the youngest player to be selected for the Lions.

In his business career he pioneered the dairy brand Kerrygold, turning it into one of Ireland’s most well-known global consumer brands.

He later became the chairman of the food giant Heinz and in 1973 took control of Independent Newspapers, publisher of the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and Evening Herald.

He was also known for his philanthropy, setting up The Ireland Funds, which gave money from US donors to reconciliation projects around the Irish border.

Mr O’Reilly was knighted in the 2001 New Year Honours by the late Queen Elizabeth II “for long and distinguished service to Northern Ireland”.

The Tánaiste (Ireland’s deputy prime minister) Micheál Martin paid tribute to him on X, formerly Twitter, as “a pioneering spirit who had an extraordinary impact on Irish business, sport, media and society”.

“Through the Ireland Funds, Tony changed the global narrative on peace and reconciliation on this island,” he added.

The Irish Rugby Football Union posted on X: “A legend of the game has passed. Our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”

Source: BBC