President, Taoiseach and Tánaiste among mourners at funeral of Tony O’Reilly

President, Taoiseach and Tánaiste among mourners at funeral of Tony O’Reilly

THE funeral of the Ireland rugby star and businessman Tony O’Reilly has taken place today.

Hundreds of mourners turned out to pay their respects to the iconic figure, who died on Saturday, May 18, aged 88, following a short illness.

President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Simon Harris and Tánaiste Micheál Martin were among those who attended the funeral, which took place at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, Dublin.

Sons Tony and Gavin O' Reilly, follow their father's  coffin out after the funeral of Sir Anthony (AJ Tony), O'Reilly in Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook

Tributes were paid to Mr O’Reilly, a former chairman of US food company Heinz and CEO of Independent News & Media (INM), who also made 29 appearances for the Ireland rugby team.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin, arrives at the church

Delivering the homily, Fr Bruce Bradley said Mr O’Reilly accomplished so much in his life but added that he “never took it for granted”.

Former Sunday Independent Editor Anne Harris and former Sunday World editor Colm McGinty arrive for the funeral

His daughter Justine, read from her father’s favourite poem, If by Rudyard Kipling, during the ceremony, and his three sons, Cameron, Gavin and Tony Jr., gave a eulogy in which they described him as a “true and committed Irish man”.

O'Reilly played for Ireland for 15 years after making his debut against France in 1955.

He also toured twice with the British and Irish Lions and made 30 appearances for the Barbarians.

Anthony O'Reilly died on May 18

After joining the Irish Dairy Board in 1962, he helped create the Kerrygold brand for Irish export butter.

As Managing Director of the Irish Sugar Company, O'Reilly forged links with Heinz and in 1969, was appointed to lead its British subsidiary.

Former U2 manager Paul McGuinness, arriving at the church

He was later appointed Senior Vice President of the company's US division and ultimately became chairman of the company in 1987, the first non-family member to hold the post.

Meanwhile, he took control of INM in 1973, later acquiring the Belfast Telegraph and the Independent newspapers as well as overseeing the firm's expansion beyond Ireland and Britain.

His other business interests included Waterford Wedgewood, where he was chairman from 1995 until 2009.

Alongside businessman Dan Rooney — who later served as US ambassador to Ireland — O'Reilly established the Ireland Fund at the height of the Troubles in 1976 to help support Irish people at home and across the world.

Businesswoman Jackie Lavin arrives at the church

Leading the tributes following his death, the Taoiseach said Mr O'Reilly was "a giant of sport, business and media and left permanent legacies in all three'.

"Through his work in the UK, US and Ireland he forged a path that many other international business figures from Ireland would follow," he added.

"Modern day Ireland likes to see itself as an island in the centre of the world — Tony O'Reilly was one of the first Irish businesspeople to truly believe that."