Tuesday 17 September 2019

Editorial: 'Feargal Quinn, true man of the people, was valued by all'

Superquinn founder and former senator Feargal Quinn. Photo: RollingNews.ie
Superquinn founder and former senator Feargal Quinn. Photo: RollingNews.ie


Since Irish people avoid speaking ill of the dead, you would want to be pretty awful to write a bad obituary. Even with that being said, the passing of Feargal Quinn has been remarkable for the outpouring of tributes from all sectors of society celebrating a well-lived life in both the public and private realms.

Quinn enjoyed describing himself as "just a grocer". But everyone above a certain age knows the founder of Superquinn was far more than that.

He was the man who pioneered so many different things in the retail business, the one who embraced change like the overall shift to self-service and supermarkets, but also adapted those inevitable changes to enhance the individual quality of service to shoppers.

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The man came up with a model of the modern shop now embraced across the country and beyond.

Along the way, he deservedly made a vast personal fortune, eventually selling on his business for a very large sum of money.

He was liked amid all this, in a small country where begrudgery is always on the horizon because he was known for his personal decency and sense of fairness, not least in his treatment of his staff, who at one stage numbered in excess of 5,000 people. But Quinn did many other things in his long and fruitful life. He was also a writer, politician, broadcaster, business counsellor and all-round man of the people.

Shoppers wanted to buy from him - in fact many shoppers still yearn for such a loveable figure in the retail business. Many people will rightly tell you people buy the right goods at the right price. But over-reliance on that concept misses one simple fact: People want to buy from people.

He believed in hard-nosed business and he always played to win. He also knew there was no substitute for well-applied hard work.

As well as all that, he came from a culture and a generation when the Irish State was in its infancy, which emphasised the need to give something back to the society which reared him and gave him such success. Thus, he contributed selflessly to public life, bringing with him his practical business sense and belief in fairness.

Quinn was chairman of An Post, helping lead a major change in the postal services. Then he went on to be an Independent senator representing the National University of Ireland, serving in Seanad Éireann for 23 years, successfully contesting five elections.

Here, he won the support of people across the political spectrum. Though naturally conservative on many economic and social issues, and possessed of a very Catholic set of beliefs, his natural courtesy and friendliness prevailed. His many law-making initiatives were based on his searing belief in fairness and decency.

People of very opposed beliefs learned to respect him and found he was always pragmatic and easy to work with. In politics many people are either liked or respected - it is rare enough you find a combination of the two. But Feargal Quinn was that rare politician.

Irish Independent

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