Gillingham: Reaction from Northern Ireland to the tragic death of Lord Ballyedmond and three others in helicopter crash
PUBLISHED: 19:42 14 March 2014 | UPDATED: 19:42 14 March 2014
The stature of Edward Haughey in Irish, British and global affairs was evident by the volume and variety of tributes that flooded in today.
He was a self-made man, a hugely successful entrepreneur, and a figure who transcended the traditional politics of Northern Ireland, having been appointed to the House of Lords and the Republic of Ireland’s Senate.
Among yesterday’s tributes was one from the US government which stated they were “deeply saddened” to learn of his death.
“Lord Ballyedmond played a profoundly significant role in politics and commerce across the island of Ireland, Great Britain, and beyond.
“Through his stewardship and dedication to excellence, Norbrook became a global force in veterinary pharmaceutical research and manufacturing.
“His achievements brought significant employment to Northern Ireland and in other places around the world, while his philanthropic endeavours helped improve the quality of life of countless others.”
Born into a farming family in Co Louth in the Irish Republic in 1944, he was educated by the Christian brothers in Dundalk.
Although born outside of Northern Ireland, Haughey would found his veterinary pharmaceuticals company Norbrook Laboratories in Newry, which is north of the border, in 1969.
He was a cross-border figure, and the leader of the Republic of Ireland’s Fianna Fail party commended “his work in the lead up to the Good Friday Agreement”.
Micheal Martin said he was “an important figure in the progress of peace of prosperity on the island of Ireland over the past two decades”.
Haughey sold veterinary products in the United States during the late sixties before founding Norbrook Laboratories. The company grew enormously to employ over 1,700 people in Northern Ireland and exports to over 120 countries.
The MP for South Down, Margaret Ritchie, said he brought “huge investment and employment to the region” and a local councillor for the Social Democratic and Labour Party said the shock felt in the area was “huge”.
Connaire McGreevy added: “A lot was given to the local area by Eddie Haughey including his extensive charity work and becoming a huge local employer.”
His success made him the wealthiest man in Northern Ireland and one of the wealthiest in Britain. The peer’s fortune was estimated at more than £600m.
Lord Ballyedmond once owned Carlisle Airport and he started an air travel business, principally Haughey Air, which owned a helicopter charter company.
As well as Ballyedmond Castle in Rostrevor, Co Down and Corby Castle in Cumbria, he was had a six-storey town house in Belgrave Square in London and owned land in Uganda, as well as several islands in Lake Victoria.
He would be recognised with a life peerage, first on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party before switching to the Conservatives.
Of course all of the tributes recognised his entrepreneurialism. Trevor Ringland of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland described him as a “colossus of industry”.
The former leader of the UUP and a family friend of 25 years, Lord Empey, said he was, “one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland and indeed these islands.”
Northern Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, Arlene Foster, said: “He was known for his leadership, integrity and global vision. One-of-a-kind and a self-made businessman, he was both highly regarded and widely respected by all those who knew him.”
In extending her sympathy to the family of Lord Ballyedmond and all those who lost their lives in the crash, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, put it simply: “His loss will be felt by many across Northern Ireland.”