Thursday 23 May 2019

'A genius... a magic authenticity' - funeral of Feargal Quinn hears warm tributes to the businessman and the family man

  • President Michael D Higgins among the mourners
  • Former Superquinn boss passed away aged 82
  • 'We knew our grandfather was a genius'
The remains of Feargal Quinn are taken from the church in Sutton following his funeral mass. Photo: Gerry Mooney
The remains of Feargal Quinn are taken from the church in Sutton following his funeral mass. Photo: Gerry Mooney
The remains of Feargal Quinn make their way along the Dublin seafront on their way to St Fintains church in Sutton for his funeral mass. Picture; Gerry Mooney
President Michael D. Higgins arrives for the funeral mass Picture; Gerry Mooney
Gavin Duffy at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Sean and Trish Gallagher at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
The remains of Feargal Quinn are taken from St Fintains church in Sutton following his funeral mass. Picture; Gerry Mooney
President Michael D. Higgins arrives for the funeral mass of Feargal Quinn Picture; Gerry Mooney
Peter Casey at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Mary Banotti at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Pictured (l-r); Son Eamonn, daughter Zoe and his wife Denise arrive for the funeral mass Picture; Gerry Mooney
Alex White at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Katherine Zappone at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Averil Power, Ronan Mullen, Sean and Trish Gallagher at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh and Michael McDowell at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Feargal Quinn's son Eamonn at his father's funeral in Sutton. Picture; Gerry Mooney
The remains of Feargal Quinn are taken from St Fintains church in Sutton following his funeral mass. Picture; Gerry Mooney

Alan O'Keeffe

THE extraordinary talents and humanity of Feargal Quinn were recalled at his funeral today in Dublin.

His son Eamonn, his close friend and business colleague Vincent O'Doherty, and two of his 19 grandchildren spoke movingly of the former senator and founder of the former Superquinn supermarket empire.

President Michael D Higgins led a large contingent of people from public life who attended the Requiem Mass in Saint Fintan's Church in Sutton today. Flags flew at half mast at the nearby shopping centre which the businessman established many years ago.

Parish priest Fr Liam Lacey said that Feargal Quinn had been established in the consciousness of the Irish people through his extraordinary business career and his public service in many roles.

A funeral mass booklet. Photo: Gerry Mooney
A funeral mass booklet. Photo: Gerry Mooney

The Christian values of loving one another he took very much to heart and they underpinned his life, said Fr Lacey.

As well as his strong beliefs, he will also be remembered for his great ability, his charm and his sense of fun, he said.

The remains of Feargal Quinn make their way along the Dublin seafront on their way to St Fintains church in Sutton for his funeral mass. Picture; Gerry Mooney
The remains of Feargal Quinn make their way along the Dublin seafront on their way to St Fintains church in Sutton for his funeral mass. Picture; Gerry Mooney

Mr O'Doherty, chairman of the former Superquinn group for more than 30 years, said Mr Quinn had an "outstanding personal contact with all the staff in his group" adding that "it was extraordinary that he remembered their first names and the names of their spouses in many cases"

"He had a magic authenticity," he said. "He gave many young people trust and responsibilities and they rose to the occassion."

President Michael D. Higgins arrives for the funeral mass Picture; Gerry Mooney
President Michael D. Higgins arrives for the funeral mass Picture; Gerry Mooney

A great many members of the 12,000 employees of Superquinn over a 40-year period had benefited from his management style, he added, pointing out that Mr Quinn treated everyone in his organisation the same - be it the charge hands or people in top management.

The self-confidence he gave to his employees "worked miraculously", Mr O'Doherty said.

Alex White at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Alex White at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney

"His passion was for the business to succeed and for people to find their work to be attractive, interesting and productive. He would manage without managing," he said.

His son Eamonn spoke warmly of family life, growing up in the Quinn household. He spoke of the enormous sense of fun that his father brought to their childhood.

Katherine Zappone at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Katherine Zappone at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney

Even though his father worked very long hours when he was at home he was intensely involved in the lives of his five children.

Mr Quinn, who was 82, is best known for founding the Superquinn chain which pioneered new levels of customer service and innovation in the Irish retail sector and which he successfully sold to a consortium of investor for €420m in 2005.

Superquinn was subsequently bought by the Musgrave family’s Supervalu chain. As well as work in the private sector, Feargal Quinn was active in the public sector on numerous boards including as chairman of An Post until 1989.

Feargal Quinn was elected to the Senate on the National University of Ireland panel and served as an Independent Senator from 1993 to 2016, where he was recognised as a strong voice for the national business community.

At home: Feargal Quinn was a family man, with five children and 19 grand-children.
Photo: Martin Maher
At home: Feargal Quinn was a family man, with five children and 19 grand-children. Photo: Martin Maher

His French granddaughter Alexandra de Schonen recalled her childhood visits to Ireland and 'magic moments' with her grandfather.

"He was the most magical of grandfathers. He had the ability to transform a garden or beach for all of his grandchildren into a most-enchanted place because he knew the Sweet Fairy," she said.

"I had always believed he had very long discussions with the Sweet Fairy because he always knew where the sweets were hidden."

Averil Power, Ronan Mullen, Sean and Trish Gallagher at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Averil Power, Ronan Mullen, Sean and Trish Gallagher at Feargal Quinn's funeral. Picture; Gerry Mooney

Laughter filled the church when she spoke of how her grandfather showed her around the Senate one day.

"He made me believe politics was the friendliest place to work, where collaboration and friendship always surpassed rivalry and competition," she said to widespread chuckles - with President Higgins joining in.

"We knew our grandfather was a genius who had come up with the most ingenious idea of playhouses for kids in supermarkets. I still believe today that his genius relied on the fact that he kept his childhood spirit and managed to share this simplicity and joy with everyone around him," she said.

Then, looking towards his flower-covered coffin, she declared: "You taught me that being Irish was putting a smile on, a contagious smile, whatever the occasion."

In his media work, Mr Quinn was an enthusiastic supporter of emerging businesses, including a regular advice column with the Irish Independent and as the presenter of RTE’s Retail Therapy, where Feargal Quinn drew on his long career in business to offer insights and advice to aspiring and struggling entrepreneurs. 

He continued to work for the Irish Independent right up to this week, with his latest column appearing this week.

Among the attendees at the service today were Cmmdt Caroline Burke, who represented the Taoiseach, children's minister Katherine Zappone, Senator Michael McDowell, chair of the Senate, Denis O'Donovan, former Presidential candidates Sean Gallagher and Peter Casey, Padraic White, former managing director of IDA Ireland, and Denis Naughten TD.

A former Superquinn employee, Fr Brian McKittrick from Celbridge parish, assisted in the concelebration of the mass.

Chief mourners included his wife Denise, his daughters Gilliane and Zoë, sons Eamonn, Stephen and Donal and sister Eilagh and his 19 grandchildren.

He was buried in St Fintan's cemetery in Sutton.

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