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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# Cancer battle
Hugh Cooney, who gave this hugely brave Late Late interview, has died
The former Enterprise Ireland chairman talked openly of his cancer battle on the 25 September show.

WARM TRIBUTES HAVE been paid to Hugh Cooney, the former Enterprise Ireland chairman, who has died aged 63 after a two-year battle with colon cancer.

His death, on Monday, came just weeks after a Late Late Show appearance for which he received widespread praise.

Cooney used the opportunity to encourage people, particularly men, to take note of warning signs from their bodies, and to go for regular check-ups.

“I hope people go away learning from some mistakes I made,” he told Ryan Tubridy during the 25 September show.

In the course of the interview, the businessman described how he first became ill while in Frankfurt for a meeting in 2013.

“I was asleep and I woke up with a searing pain. I thought someone had shot me in the abdomen.”

“I had to lay up against the wall all night, went to the board meeting, was given a Nurofen Plus by one of the board members. It didn’t really help.”

On his return home, he consulted a doctor “and within half an hour was in St Vincent’s A&E”.

At first, they thought it was blocked gallstones – but within the space of about a week he was diagnosed with stage four cancer “primarily in the colon and into the liver”.

During his Late Late appearance, he said he currently had weeks to live. 

“I’m ready to die, but I do want to leave some legacies behind me.”

“I accepted the diagnosis from the start. I was told there was a long road ahead of me. I took the positive from that statement, from the doctor. I’m a fighter, so I decided I was going to fight the cancer.

“Since then, in the last two years, I’ve probably had over fifty chemo sessions. All I said to my doctor at the time – leave no stone unturned, I’m with you. And he has left no stone unturned.”

He then appealed for people to take better care of their health:

“I’ll say to adults, and in particular to men, listen to your body. Learn from mistakes I made. Just do it, go for regular check-ups. Be honest when you’re preparing questionnaires for doctors.

“No shortcuts.”

He said that “in hindsight” he had made a number of errors before first seeking out medical help.

“Before I was diagnosed in 2013 I recall two occasions where I passed blood. I didn’t listen to my body.

“Typical man… Too busy. Macho. Infallible. Woke up the next morning, no problem. Ignored it. But that was the body telling me something.”


Ryan Tubridy paid a lengthy tribute to Cooney on his radio show this morning, describing the interview as an emotional and moving experience.

“We’re thinking of his family today and may he rest in peace.”

Jobs minister Richard Bruton said he had learned of the death with “deep sadness”.

“Hugh was Chairman of Enterprise Ireland for five years from November 2008 to July 2013. He played a huge role in Ireland’s economic recovery as he chaired Enterprise Ireland through very difficult years.

“Hugh was a cheerful and resourceful man in life who brought these very same qualities to his battle with cancer. He was determined to understand the challenge and give insight to others. I greatly admired him for his courage.

“His loss will be deeply felt by all those who had the privilege of knowing him and I extend my sympathies to Hugh’s wife Nuala, and his five children at this very difficult time.”

Fianna Fáil’s jobs spokesman Dara Calleary said Cooney had taken up the Enterprise Ireland role “at a particularly difficult time in global economics, and through his determination and vision, managed to grow and develop the organisation”.

“Following his diagnosis, Hugh campaigned tirelessly to try and raise awareness, particularly among men, about the need for screening.  His courage and advocacy during his illness reflected the kindness and selflessness that embodied Hugh. His loss will be felt right across the business community.”

“I want to extend my sympathies to Hugh’s wife Nuala and his children Eva, Fiona, Hugh, Gwen and Laura.”

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”

Hugh Cooney will be laid to rest today, following a funeral mass in Foxrock at 11am.

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Read: Tributes paid after indie singer dies of bone cancer

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