Honour for Kerry's 'go-to' man in UK
HE is the 'go-to' man for anyone wanting a start in the construction industry in the UK, and the guy parents contact on behalf of sons and daughters emigrating for the first time.
Danny Tim O'Sullivan (60) knows the importance of that leg-up himself, having first landed a job in the UK working on the sugar beet campaign in the 1970s at the age of 17, the third oldest in a family of six reared on a small farm in Couneragh in Co Kerry.
But there weren't many opportunities for work in his native Co Kerry. O'Sullivan sought those opportunities in London, getting his first start in the construction industry from a fellow Kerryman, John Murphy, and working his way up to eventually starting his own firm. Nowadays, his construction company, the Sullivan Group, is one of the UK's biggest, employing over 1,700 people, a lot of them Irish and from his native Co Kerry.
This was one of the reasons O'Sullivan was honoured by his own at a ceremony in the Ballsbridge Hotel last night where he was named the 2015 Kerry Person of the Year by the Kerry Association in Dublin.
But the humble Kerryman is less likely to tell you the other reasons why he has come to the attention of his fellow county men and women. He doesn't make a lot of noise about his charitable endeavours like his unwavering support for St Joseph's home for the elderly in Killorglin, his work for homeless charities in the UK or his support for GAA clubs or how he helped people facing financial hardship to meet the costs of a loved one's funeral.
"I'm honoured to have been nominated for the award and can't thank enough the people who put me forward," he told the Sunday Independent.
And even though he was at the helm of one of the most successful construction firms, he based his family life in Kells in Co Kerry, commuting between his farm there and London, while his wife Sheila raised their five children.
"When the kids were young I tried to come home every week but now they're grown up I spend more time in London," he said. "Since the downturn, a lot of the Irish are back here as well. But there is a boom in construction all over the UK and I can see that lasting for the next 10 years," he added.
Now his son Timothy and daughter Julie work in the family business, which set up a dedicated office in 2008 to help Irish emigrants in search of work. The office helps sort out the red tape necessary to work legally in the UK.
This isn't the first time O'Sullivan has been honoured.
In 2004, he was named the Kerry Person of the Year by the London Kerry Association and was honoured by Kerry County Council with a civic reception the same year. While he may be slow to talk about his other commitments, family friend and Independent councillor Michael Cahill said: "Danny Tim is an exceptional man who has gone out of his way to help others and somehow manages to divide himself in a thousand ways.
"It's many a father and mother has rang him looking for a start for their son or daughter. He has done extraordinary things and most of them go unknown except for the people he has helped."
Funds raised at last night's Oiche Chiarrai went to Valentia Cottage Hospital, a facility for the elderly, and Cúnamh Iveragh in Cahirciveen, a daycare centre for adults and children with intellectual disabilities.