Monday 14 October 2019

O'Reilly steers steady course in Brexit storm

Eamonn O’Reilly, Chief Executive, Dublin Port Company
Eamonn O’Reilly, Chief Executive, Dublin Port Company

Fearghal O'Connor

Dublin Port Company chief executive Eamonn O'Reilly is the highest profile official at a port that is usually below the radar since Bertie Ahern's close friend Joe Burke stepped down from the chairmanship of the company in 2009.

O'Reilly took over as CEO in August 2010 and cargo traffic, cruise line passengers and vital infrastructure spend have grown steadily under his leadership.

With Brexit looming, his stewardship has not been without its challenges. Retail and tourism interests in Dublin and other Irish ports are still reeling from his surprise revelation to the Sunday Independent in early February that the rapidly expanding cruise business at Dublin Port was "probably going to peak during 2019 and from 2021 I think we will be taking significantly fewer bookings for cruises".

A straight-talking, no-nonsense communicator, he has never been afraid to face down critics or those he felt were wrong-headed.

When David McWilliams suggested last year that Dublin Port was "a waste of space" and should be moved to make way for housing and commercial development, O'Reilly quickly penned his own acidic response.

"Whatever else Dublin Port is, I have come to realise that it is a magnet for daft notions and opportunism," O'Reilly said in his response to the economist.

McWilliams went on to suggest that the idea might be a way of winning votes in a future election for a directly elected mayor for the capital.

"I had hoped we had learned important lessons from the crash. It seems I am wrong. As elsewhere, the favouring of fantasy over facts is alive and well in Ireland," wrote O'Reilly.

He has also been a trailblazer in the semi-state sector in other ways too, successfully challenging government attempts to set a seven-year term limit on the contracts of CEOs in such State-owned companies.

Government rules required him to stand down in August 2017. But in late 2016, O'Reilly took an employment case against the Dublin Port Company at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) after it refused to offer him a permanent contract.

The WRC sided with O'Reilly's claim for so-called Contract of Indefinite Duration (CID) and further awarded him €45,000 in compensation.

O'Reilly's pay and pension package increased more than 18pc between 2016 and 2017, according to the port's annual report, and stood at €359,000 at that point.

In 2012, when port staff were being moved from a defined benefit pension scheme on to a less lucrative defined contribution scheme, a special standalone defined benefit scheme was set up for O'Reilly by the semi-state company called the Dublin Port Company Chief Executive Retirement Benefits Scheme.

O'Reilly started his career as an engineer with Irish Cement before working overseas in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Congo.

Prior to joining Dublin Port, he had previously served as chief executive at Portroe Stevedores, the Dublin Port-based cargo handling business. He also held the role of group development manager of Portroe's parent company, Doyle Shipping Group, during that time. Before that he was project manager for Securicor Ireland and also worked as a management consultant with KPMG.

Sunday Independent

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