O'Neill: It wasn't all plain sailing in IDB early days
Ex Glanbia chief looks back at 40 years of change
Published 17/05/2011 | 05:00
There are few men in the Irish dairy industry with closer links to the IDB over a period of four decades than former Glanbia chief Pat O'Neill. He talked to Darragh McCullough about the changes he has witnessed during that time.
"I remember arriving for my interview with then CEO Tony O'Reilly in 1964. He said, 'I've got a meeting with the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture in 10 minutes. What have you to offer Bord Báinne?'"
These were exciting times for the newly established IDB. Charged initially with marketing almost all the butter that Ireland had for export, the State monopoly was attracting the brightest and best. Although he was applying for the relatively lowly position of an administrative officer, Mr O'Neill was to quickly progress up through the organisation and eventually became its director of administration and secretary before leaving to take on the role of managing Avonmore in 1973.
"We were dealing almost solely in butter in the early days. While output was increasing, expansion was still dampened by the fact of a limit on the amount that we could get into the UK. Outside of Britain, the prices were very poor, if they were to be got at all. While we might have got three or four shillings a pound in England, it was considered a success if we got a shilling a pound in places like Morocco.
"So the launching of Kerrygold was a real turning point for not just the IDB but the industry in general. I remember Tony O'Reilly being asked how we managed to crack open the English market where other exporting nations had already established themselves. "We took out the soft underbelly of New Zealand," he said.
Following Mr O'Reilly's departure in 1966, Joe McGough took the reins. Seven years later -1973- was another key year in the history of the IDB in the opinion of Mr O'Neill.
"Up to then, there was no floor to the market and we really had very little access to Continental markets. Membership of the EC changed all that. As TJ Maher told farmer rallies at the time, it was an unlimited market with a guaranteed price."