Monday 24 July 2017

'We have lost a national treasure' - Tributes paid at the funeral of businessman Owen O'Callaghan

Shelagh O'Callaghan with her children Brian and Zelda behind the coffin of her husband Owen O'Callaghan after his funeral mass in St. Patrick’s Church, Rochestown, Cork. Photo:Mark Condren
Shelagh O'Callaghan with her children Brian and Zelda behind the coffin of her husband Owen O'Callaghan after his funeral mass in St. Patrick’s Church, Rochestown, Cork. Photo:Mark Condren
Shelagh O'Callaghan with her children Brian and Zelda after the funeral mass of her husband Owen O'Callaghan in St. Patrick’s Church, Rochestown, Cork. Photo:Mark Condren
Frank Dunlop at the funeral mass of developer Owen O'Callaghan in St. Patrick’s Church, Rochestown, Cork. Photo:Mark Condren
Michael O'Flynn at the funeral mass of developer Owen O'Callaghan in St. Patrick’s Church, Rochestown, Cork. Photo:Mark Condren
Brian O'Callaghan is consoled after the funeral mass of his father Owen O'Callaghan in St. Patrick’s Church, Rochestown, Cork. Photo: Mark Condren
Michael O'Flynn at the funeral mass of developer Owen O'Callaghan in St. Patrick’s Church, Rochestown, Cork. Photo:Mark Condren
Noel C. Duggan at the funeral mass of developer Owen O'Callaghan in St. Patrick’s Church, Rochestown, Cork. Photo:Mark Condren
Flowers at the funeral mass of developer Owen O'Callaghan in St. Patrick’s Church, Rochestown, Cork. Photo:Mark Condren
Deputy Michael McGrath (right) at the funeral mass of developer Owen O'Callaghan in St. Patrick’s Church, Rochestown, Cork. Photo:Mark Condren
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

Developer Owen O'Callaghan was hailed as an inspirational businessman whose loss had robbed Ireland and his native Cork of "a national treasure."

Mr O'Callaghan (76) was described at his Requiem Mass by Fr Pat O'Mahony as "a man of huge integrity."

"He was a man of his word - a family man.

"While the papers were saying we have lost a national treasure and Cork city has lost a champion and a great Cork treasure, it is his family who have lost the treasure that Owen O'Callaghan was," Fr O'Mahony said.

"What a treasure - what a giant he was. He was a big man with a huge heart. He was a man who gave and nurtured so many things in the city and so many organisations - so many charitable organisations. Books could be written about him.

"But he always did his stuff, as Owen would do, very discreetly and very quietly. Owen was a friend to so many.

"He was a very big (figure), a well-known national and international figure, (but) he was also a private man.

"One of the articles in the newspapers over the past few days said Owen O'Callaghan's great legacy can be seen in the buildings around Ireland and in the buildings around Cork.

"That is so very true."

The tribute came as hundreds attended the Requiem Mass in Cork of the father-of-three who died last Monday after falling ill on Christmas Day.

A native of Ballincollig, Mr O'Callaghan settled in Rochestown with his Requiem Mass taking place in St Patrick's Church, not far from his long-time home.

The mourners were led by his wife, Shelagh, children, Brian and Zelda, and grandchildren, Isobel, Robbie and Harry.

Mr O'Callaghan is also survived by his brother, Jack, and sister, Gene.

The founder of construction giants, O'Callaghan Properties, he was predeceased by his youngest daughter, Hazel.

The 22-year-old died in a freak equestrian accident in 2002 when she suffered fatal head injuries after falling backwards from a ramp while loading a horse box.

Yesterday's funeral proved a who's who of the worlds of politics, business and the arts in Ireland.

Amongst the mourners in Rochestown yesterday was former Government press secretary and lobbyist, Frank Dunlop.

Mr Dunlop, like Mr O'Callaghan, was a key figure at the Mahon Tribunal hearings.

Also present was Opposition finance spokesman Michael McGrath, developers Michael O'Flynn, Theo Cullinane and Tom Coughlan, Cork Chamber of Commerce officials Conor Healy, Roger Flack and Robin O'Sullivan, Millstreet businessman Noel C Duggan, Cork Airport director Niall McCarthy, rugby official Tom Kiernan, Lord Mayor of Cork Councillor Des Cahill and the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton.

Apologies were sent by the Bishop of Cork & Ross, Dr John Buckley, who is currently in Rome.

Mr O'Callaghan ranked as one of the most influential developers in Ireland over the past 40 years.

His firm was responsible for major residential and shopping developments in Cork, Dublin and Limerick since the late 1970s.

Amongst the projects he helped mastermind was Liffey Valley in Dublin, Arthur's Quay in Limerick as well as Douglas, Merchant's Quay, Paul Street, North Main Street, Opera Lane and MahonPoint retail developments in Cork.

Major housing estates across Ireland were also built by O'Callaghan Properties.

His firm is currently completing a €90m office complex in Cork, Navigation Square, the largest ever built outside Dublin.

Mr O'Callaghan had also unsuccessfully proposed to build a new hospital in Cork as well as the city's €70m new conference and events centre.

The developer became a central figure in the Mahon Tribunal because of his involvement in the Liffey Valley project in Dublin and disputed allegations levelled by rival developer, Tom Gilmartin.

Central to the Mahon Tribunal hearings was the purpose of payments made by Mr O'Callaghan to Mr Dunlop in respect of lobbying over planning issues in Dublin.

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