Monday 19 February 2018

Tributes to Denis O'Brien Snr: father, businessman, daredevil

Denis O'Brien Senior with his son Denis
Denis O'Brien Senior with his son Denis
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

There was a large attendance at the funeral in Dublin yesterday of businessman Denis O'Brien Senior (86), who died at the weekend.

Communications and media magnate Denis O'Brien paid tribute to his father, who he said had founded a successful business career on "trust, fair dealings, long-term relationships and friendships".

Known to all as Dano, Mr O'Brien Snr was a native of Cork but lived for many years in Dublin's Ballsbridge and founded horse nutrition firm Plusvital in the 1970s. He is survived by Iris, his wife of 61 years, and their four children Joanne, Abigail, Denis and Kerry, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The requiem mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook saw Bono from U2 and wife Ali in attendance. Also there were former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, businessman Dermot Desmond, 'Riverdance' producer John McColgan, John Delaney of the FAI, Ireland soccer boss Martin O'Neill, businesswoman Bernie Gallagher, former Ireland rugby stars Keith Wood and Alan Quinlan, and broadcasters Micheál O Muircheartaigh and Pat Kenny.

Colin Delves, CEO of Digicel; Lucy Gaffney, Chairperson of Communicorp; Leslie Buckley, Chairman of INM; Robert Pitt, Chief Executive of INM, Newstalk editor Garrett Harte and many senior executives from Digicel and Denis O'Brien's other interests, including the Quinta do Lago golf resort in Portugal, were also present. Other mourners included Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Lowry, Conor Lenihan and Nora Owen.

In his youth, Dano O'Brien was a champion high diver and swimmer.

Mourners heard that he was the sixth of eight children and he ran away from boarding school at the age of 14 to join the merchant navy for three years. On his return, he sat his Leaving Cert in just five months and went to the Royal College of Surgeons where he was awarded a gold medal for anatomy in his first year.

But he left to become a medical rep and his career in business began.

Denis O'Brien spoke glowingly of his father's love for his wife - "the love of his life" - and their family, recalling he would take them on holiday depending on "the prevailing economic conditions" and would always count out the money he could spend on his children each day on the bed.

He recalled his daredevil stunts - which included diving off a cliff into just four feet of water, not having known the tide was out.

"These were the days when there were no concussion protocols," said Denis. After being rescued from the swirling clouds of sand, Dano's first words to his children were: "Don't tell your mother."

"Life was never dull when dad was home," his son told mourners.

Denis spoke of his father's talent for friendship, his resilience and self-reliance.

Chief celebrant Fr Paul Byrne said Denis O'Brien Snr and Iris had been "tremendously devoted".

Dano had lived life to the full, he said, adding: "He was truly a remarkable man."

Daughter Joanne described her father as having a great sense of adventure and fun, as well as having imagination and courage, enormous energy and stamina.

"Family was paramount to him," she said. "He reared his children on key phrases like: 'If you're not in, you can't win'."

Denis O'Brien expressed deep appreciation to the oncologist, doctors and nurses of the Beacon Clinic for their medical care.

Mr O'Brien also thanked the UCD choir and St Bartholomew's Choir for providing music at the funeral service.

Irish Independent

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