Monday 19 November 2018

Warm tributes paid to Hugh Cooney who has died after two-year long battle with cancer

Former Enterprise Ireland chairman Hugh Cooney, who has died after a battle with terminal colon cancer. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Former Enterprise Ireland chairman Hugh Cooney, who has died after a battle with terminal colon cancer. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Daniel McConnell Group Political Correspondent

Warm tributes have been paid to Hugh Cooney, former Enterprise Ireland chairman and leading financial businessman, who has died.

Mr Cooney, won widespread acclaim last month for his Sunday Independent interview and subsequent Late Late Show appearance about his two-year long battle with stage-four colon cancer.

Mr Cooney in his final days was a strong advocate of middle age men getting colonoscopies, which he said could have made the difference in saving his life.

The 63-year-old Tullamore native was a close friend of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Mr Cooney died yesterday at his Dublin home surrounded by his family. 

Warm tributes have been paid to Mr Cooney from the worlds of business and politics.

Former Tanaiste and Enterprise minister Mary Coughlan has led warm tributes to Hugh Cooney, the former Chairman of Enterprise Ireland.

Speaking to, Ms Coughlan paid tribute to Mr Cooney's leadership at Ireland's most difficult economic time.

She said: "He was a great man. It is very sad news."

"I appointed him as Enterprise Ireland chairman. He was highly regarded by all and his willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty was a testament to the man."

"He took on a very difficult job at a very difficult time in our country's history and he made a huge difference," she added.

"He had so much energy, so much enthusiasm but he was also a tough man to come up against," she added.

But the former Tanaiste also aluded to Mr Cooney's warm and informal personal style.

"He was great company, very gregarious, great fun."

She said his death is a loss to the country as he had "so much more to give."

She offered her sympathies to the Cooney family.

Late Late Show Host Ryan Tubridy has paid a warm tribute to former Enterprise Ireland chairman Hugh Cooney, who has passed away.

In a statement to, Mr Tubridy said he was very sorry to hear of Mr Cooney's passing and paid tribute to his courage in discussing his terminal cancer battle.

“I was very sorry to hear of the passing of Hugh Cooney, who I met just a few weeks ago when he was brave enough to share his story on The Late Late Show. His decision to speak out to highlight men’s health was inspirational and showed enormous strength of character. My thoughts are with his family at this time," he said.

Barry Cowen, Fianna Fail’s Environment spokesman and TD for Offaly  today described Mr Cooney as a “pure gem.”

Speaking to, Mr Cowen said: “He was a great man, he couldn’t do enough for you. He fought his illness with courage and even in that he made an impact. It is very sad. He was a pure gem of a gentleman.”

Former colleagues at Enterprise Ireland were informed of the sad news by email. The organisation today described Mr Cooney’s passing as “Very sad”.

“May He Rest in Peace - brave fighter till the end,” the statement said.

Former Trade Minister Dara Calleary added his voice to the chorus of tributes.

He said he was "very sorry to hear of Hugh Cooneys death RIP."

Mr Calleary said Mr Cooney "gave huge service to Ireland as chair of Enterprise Ireland. His courage and advocacy in illness was inspiring."

During the Sunday Independent interview, Mr Cooney spoke candidly about facing his own mortality in his final days.

"The way I feel at the moment, Danny, these are not words I have made up, these are words I have used with my kids. The cancer bus is on its way to collect me for my final journey and it is probably a question of weeks now rather than months. I am ready for it, I want people to become more aware of cancer," he said.

Before his diagnosis he had never heard of colonoscopies, he admits, and said they should be mandatory for all adults over 50.

"Cancer is a formidable foe and avoid it if you can. Why are colonoscopies not mandatory for adults over 50? A colonoscopy costs €1,600, why are they not mandatory? It is a simple question. If you sit down with the CEOs of the medical insurance companies and ask them why is it not mandatory,” he argued.

Read More: 'I'm about to die... the cancer bus is on its way for my final journey'

“I’m ready to die, but I do want to leave some legacies behind me. All I say to adults, in particular men, is listen to your body, learn from the mistakes I made. Go for regular check-ups. Be honest when preparing questionnaires for doctors. Don’t take short cuts,” he said.

“In hindsight I made a couple of errors. I recall two occasions when I passed blood but I didn’t listen to my body. Typical man, too busy, macho. I ignored it. That was the body telling me something,” he said.

His funeral will take place tomorrow at 11am at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Foxrock.

He is survived by Nuala and his children Eva, Fiona, Hugh, Gwen and Laura.

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