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The coffin of Tony O'Reilly is carried out of the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook Alamy Stock Photo

Businessman Tony O'Reilly was a 'true Irish legend', funeral told

The international rugby player and media magnate died last Friday.


TONY O’REILLY WAS a “true Irish legend” who inspired people to think bigger, his funeral has been told.

O’Reilly, who was also known as a media magnate and international rugby player for Ireland and the British and Irish Lions, died last Friday, aged 88.

Mourners were told that O’Reilly had lived a “dazzlingly full life” that was anything but mundane.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin was among those who attended the service in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin.

President Michael D Higgins was represented by his Aide de Camp.

The family had requested no flowers, but those who want to make donations can give to Ireland Funds, one of O’Reilly’s philanthropic ventures which supports reconciliation projects around the border.

Delivering the homily at the funeral, Fr Bruce Bradley said O’Reilly accomplished so much in his 88 years, but was “never one who took it for granted”.

“Despite the diverse, colourful, often fast-moving and no doubt distracting world he moved in so comfortably for much of the time, was never ashamed of the religion he was raised in,” Fr Bradley said. 

“In his almost 90 years, Tony O’Reilly lived many lives; gifted and graced as he was in so many ways and in a life often wonderfully anything but mundane,” he added. 

“It was a truly, at many times, dazzlingly full life.”

file-photo-dated-200407-of-sir-anthony-oreilly-at-the-opening-of-the-new-20-million-independent-news-and-media-printing-plant-in-newry-northern-ireland-tony-oreilly-one-of-irelands-leading-bus Tony O'Reilly in 2007 Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Delivering a tribute to his father, Cameron O’Reilly said: “It was a life of highs and lows, of ebbs and flows.

“Every emotion crammed into those 88 years.”

He said the family had been overwhelmed by thousands of messages of tribute in recent days.

He said the tributes reflected that his father had been “a giant of sport, of business, of media, who left permanent legacies in all three”.

“A trailblazer who forged a path that others would follow,” he said. 

“A titanic figure who lit up every room that he entered. A true Irish legend. He was all of those things and more,” he added. 

“Where people saw obstacles, he saw opportunities and he almost always went for the gap – whether on the rugger field or in the boardroom.

“And when he did achieve these extraordinary feats, he has inspired so many people, not just here in Ireland, but elsewhere in the world, to be bigger, to think bolder and to never have to accept second place.”

A number of figures from the sporting, business and media worlds attended the funeral.

Born in Dublin in 1936, O’Reilly made his international debut for Ireland in rugby in 1955 and soon became the youngest player to be selected for the Lions.

In his business career he pioneered the dairy brand Kerrygold, turning it into one of Ireland’s most well-known global consumer brands.

He later became the chairman of the food giant Heinz and in 1973 took control of Independent Newspapers, publisher of the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and Evening Herald.

O’Reilly is survived by his six children and 23 grandchildren.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin and Press Association

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