And so, as the sun sets in the Bahamas, we say farewell to Sir Tony…


I remember Tony O’Reilly. Ever since I was a youngster, he was presented to us as our golden boy. Good looks, Irish international rugby player, record number of tries playing for British and Irish Lions, gorgeous Australian wife, lots of children, the boss of Heinz in the US. There was nothing this blessed man touched which didn’t turn to gold.

With the Troubles and then the 1980s and 1990s, things changed a bit. He hadn’t at that stage been given his honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth,  but the energy and spleen with which his columnists and reporters attacked the Hume-Adams talks of the time showed that he must surely soon receive some such bauble. Hume was a fool, his columnists told the world. He was being hoodwinked by Gerry Adams. These talks were a sham, they would never end with the IRA abandoning the gun and the bomb,John Hume was degrading himself  and all right-thinking people by such contact. (That was a great epithet  then – ‘right-thinking’.) The barrage from the O’Reilly press went on for as long as – maybe longer than – the Hume-Adams talks.

When those  talks paved the way to peace and Sir Tony’s paper was proved spectacularly wrong,  no one there blushed or broke stride. They now concentrated their fire on Sinn Féin. That party might have abandoned violence but their entry into politics was a sham and the Irish people should not be taken in. They were men with murder in their hearts and blood on their hands, they were a threat to the country. And so to this day it goes. You’ll search long and hard through the Indo or Sindo before you’ll discover a piece that gives due credit to Adams for his part in peace-making, or an editorial that tells you Sinn Féin are a legitimate political party with aspirations that are to be applauded.

Meanwhile, now in his late seventies, the golden boy is running out of brass.On Sunday Brendan O’Connor, one of his columnists, surveyed the wreckage of O’Reilly’s financial empire and somehow made it seem a virtue  that Sir Tony owes almost €200 million to eight different banks and that he’s been told to cough up €22.6 million to the AIB. Lesser men, O’Connor suggested, would have tried not  to pay back the debt. Sir Tony was doing everything within his power to pay back  his debts. This might even involve his having to sell his jewel in the crown, his beloved  Castlemartin Estate in Co Kildare.(No, Virginia, he doesn’t live there,)

Is this a tragedy? A case of an Irish Icarus, flying so high that his golden wings melted and he plunged to the ground? I think not.  O’Reilly lives in the Bahamas, his present wife is not short of a bob, and you may be sure he’ll spend his declining years in the lap of luxury, massive debts or no massive debts. Besides, you have to be a great man with one fatal flaw to be considered a tragic hero. O’Reilly, by his  never-ending assaults on Hume as well as Adams – or rather the assaults he had his underlings perform – showed himself to be a small-minded, politically stupid man who did his level best to brainwash the Irish people about the Troubles in the north. If there’s a tragedy, it is that he was to a degree successful.

20 Responses to And so, as the sun sets in the Bahamas, we say farewell to Sir Tony…

  1. Francis D June 30, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    A true Visionary. We can only hope that retirement for this great man of mettle and spine, who stood up to the Men of Violence even when they sought Peace, and with tenacity to the Irish Tax payer, is celebrated on his retirement with the credit and aplomb this Titan of integrity richly deserves

  2. Paul June 30, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    I seem to remember that His family has form. I think His uncle was an officer in the pro-treaty army during the civil war. He tied a group of captured republicans to a mine and blew them to smithereens. Nice family. Interestingly, the Southern press seem to insist on calling him Sir Anthony. How odd!

    • paul June 30, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

      Is that the ballyseedy masacre you are referring to? Some form for a govt that just won it’s ‘freedom”

  3. paddykool June 30, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    Jude :
    There’s me thinking for a split second you were going to write about the other Sir Anthony ….Tony Hopkins , the Shakespearean Doctor Hannibal Lecter!!! …but no. …
    Anyway , casting our minds back to those times, the establishment was really running scared .This was new territory to deal with …This was Hume and Adams thinking outside the box.That scared the hell out of their old certainties. The old game they knew how to play was ending or already over. Everything the Establishment knew how to deal with was crumbling in front of them .How else can you explain the mad voice-overs when actors spoke Adams ‘ words on television.It was absurd. A monty Python sketch for national television and radio presenters . It didn’t matter if you were a republican or not .This was crazy ,juvenile, frightened stuff. They had been all geared up for a war that would rattle on like the Vietnam conflict with somewhere to send the troops for in-house training …Nice and close too.!! You only had to send them on a forty minute flight and get them on the streets. There was all that money tied up in this untidy little conflict too .Loads of overtime for the unionist community. They had mortgaged their futures on the overtime earnings made within the whole security forces set-up .There was only one community being paid to “police” the Troubles after all. All that police overtime…that UDR patrolling … all those Prison Officers being employed …whole future plans….mortgages , holidays …that new sunroom…that new motor… hanging in the balance… Everyone could see where that cash was going…… and the Hume adams ideas of bringing it all to a close was like letting the gatecrashers in to the party They hadn’t been properly house-trained , y’know! . Man, the Establishment wasn’t ready for anything like that.
    As for this other “Sir Tony” …what the hell could he ever know about the Troubles in the North of Ireland . Mind you , he’s not on his own….

  4. Tom Coughlan June 30, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    As the song goes ”the birds picked the flesh off the trees in Kerry”. That Michael Collins was some hero indeed!!!

  5. michael c June 30, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    O’Reilly then had the brass neck to fly Hume and Trimble to receive their nobel prizes which were the result of Hume /Adams and appear before the cameras to say: “I provided the taxi”.The Bahamas don’t know what they have let themselves in for.

  6. Patricia Davidson June 30, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

    See the mighty how far they’ve fallen…so let us sit the ground and tell sad stories about the death of kings, but Sinn Fein is on the move now, like an idea whose time has come..even the marching of mighty armies will not defeat them, they’re on the move now…so beware the risen people.. Yesterday’s men are no longer of any interest to us now..

  7. RJC June 30, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    I like how he was knighted for ‘Services to Northern Ireland’. If that doesn’t make your head spin, I don’t know what will.

    Good riddance to him, although Tony O’Reillys of the world never really suffer too much, do they? Sadly, I suspect there are many more queuing up to take his place. I struggle to read Ross O’Carroll-Kelly as I find much of it to be too close to the bone.

  8. Perkin Warbeck June 30, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    Oh, what a falling off has there been for Sir Anthony J. O’Reilly.

    To travel from the glory that was Iveagh House (where one joined in the toasting of the Queen) to the beans on toast (at the very most) of the Iveagh Hostel is but the short journey of an Irish mile but in terms of the pyscho-socio-economic it is longer that even that of the lone and level sands that stretch far, far away in an antique land.

    While only some of the more genuine anoraks among the Reilly watchers already knew that the J. in his distinguished name stood for Joseph,the world and its mother in law now know that the O’ stands for O’zymandias, no less. How well it suited, pin-stripe suited, indeed, that freckled frown, that wrinkled lip, that sneer of cold command.

    And to pile woe upon woe the news is just beginning to filter through that the Pawn Shop on the Corner (yes, the one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) has recently been boarded up. So, while Tones continues to walk up and down beneath the clock, despite having nothing left to hock, it is a more futile exercise than even he, the visionary, can imagine.

    Truth is, for while Dame Hubris might well have been peaches, might well indeed have been honey, it was she, and she alone, who made Tones spend not only all his money but also that of 57 banks.

    And now, nearer home, the very dogs on the Dublin streets know that it is as difficult to get into the Ivo these nights as it once was (and perhaps still is) to get into Belvo when the broth of a boyo was on the first rung to taking the soup which would lead to eventual Souper-stardom and the inevitable, concomitant Knighthood.

    Indeed, it is reliably reported (though not by the watchdogs in the Sindo) that it is now necessary to have one’s name put down BEFORE birth in order to be guaranteed one of those coveted urine-scented, gock-stained mattresses in the Ivo. Such is the demand.

    To go from being filthy rich to sharing a filthy Dublin doorway at night is, perhaps, not exactly the most envious of career paths. The old dears who put their darlings down for the Belvedere once the doctor has confirmed the news, will now be having second thoughts. Maybe.

    Yet, there are certain compensations. And is not the darkest hour the one before the yawn of dawn? While the innumerable bills of the newly broke Billionaire will go some way to keeping his splendid figure warm beneath the smelly archway of a canal bridge during the long watches of the night, the Knight will still have all those unsold backnumbers of the Sindo to draw upon as an improvised duvet. (Shame on those doubters who sneered that the Sindo was a useless rag).

    And once a celebrated After Dinner Speaker, always a c.A.D.S. Thus, after the nocturnal Simon Community Soup Run the now down on his uppers Souper Star will be on his feet again andin much demand as an, erm, After Soup Run Speaker.

    Why, he might even resurrect that wonderful; witty anecdote of his about his good friend Bob , the one had been strangely dropped from his repertoire in recent years. That would be, of course, Robert Mugabe. Tones, the capital Capitalist, had managed to charm Marxist Bob into allowing Heinz into his Zimbabwean market on the basis of ‘their shared experiences as Jesuit old boys both’.

    I think the reason this anecdote was later dropped was due to the (whisper it) G-word. (Genocide is offside, but only if you happen to be black and uppity). But that not should not be a problem for the new found companions of Tones: Methylated Mick, Wino Willie and , not forgetting, Sal the Sauce.


  9. neill June 30, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

    showed himself to be a small-minded, politically stupid man who did his level best to brainwash the Irish people about the Troubles in the north. If there’s a tragedy, it is that he was to a degree successful.

    So he had opinions that you didnt agree with?

    He has more integrity in his small finger than Gerry Adams has in his own body remember Adams niece?

    See the mighty how far they’ve fallen…so let us sit the ground and tell sad stories about the death of kings, but Sinn Fein is on the move now, like an idea whose time has come..even the marching of mighty armies will not defeat them, they’re on the move now…so beware the risen people.. Yesterday’s men are no longer of any interest to us now..

    Yes obviously is satire Patricia?

  10. Jude Collins June 30, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    So you think, Neill, that the sustained attack against John Hume was well merited? You don’t think it led to peace? Mmmm. Interesting.

    • neill June 30, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

      Yes thats called the freedom of the press which I am sure you are entirely in favour of.

      Do you think G Adams has intergrity?

      • D McGUIRE November 25, 2014 at 10:33 am #

        ‘Freedom of the press’ ….. I thought O’Reilly peddled the lie/line that he ‘never’ influenced or dictated the editorial content of the papers he owned….it was just coincidence that the leader writers at the Indo wrote pieces week in and week out which were designed to destroy the work and reputation of John Hume. O’Reilly’s ego got in the way of everything and he bears a heavy responsibility for the appalling treatment of John Hume. Rich men own newspapers not because they are frustrated journalists, but because it gives them a platform to influence opinion without the burdens of office.

  11. Jude Collins June 30, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    So you agree that John Hume should have been vilified?

  12. neill June 30, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    Do you agree that a paper has a right to vilify in the name of freedom of the press?

  13. neill June 30, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

    Yes or no?

  14. paddykool June 30, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    None of it is about integrity or lack of it .That’kind of talk isn’t worth a damn in politics. Politics are never about integrity. What happened was that Hume and Adams saw that by taking the “gun out of politics” the thing it really did was make an entire ethos completely redundant .
    The industry of menace and masters of war go out of business if there’s no war left to fight.. you no longer need all that apparatus . You don’t need all those patrols on the streets. You don’t have to pay them any more . you don’t need them anymore. Like i said before ,somewhere , we never heard the bees buzzing for some thirty years…we forgot about them until the clattering expensive helicopters were pulled out of the sky. Hume and Adams did that.
    That was anathema to a generation who were encouraged in nightly adverts to “Go Out And Catch Terrorists.”…There’d be no more terrorists for them to catch by the time Hume and Adams had it all figured out.Some people never really forgave them for that.

    • neill June 30, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

      I am sorry for saying this Paddykool are you on something? ; )

      • paddykool June 30, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

        Only the required several glasses of red ,Neill…hah ! Works a treat obviously, eh?

        • neill June 30, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

          The best type of medicine!