“A dazzlingly full life…”

May 27, 2024 in Featured News, News

“He accomplished so much in his 88 years, but was never one who took it for granted.” So said Bruce Bradley SJ in his homily at the funeral Mass of former Belvedere College pupil Tony O’Reilly, in the Sacred Heart Church Donnybrook, Dublin on Wednesday, 22 May. The Irish businessman, philanthropist, and former international rugby player passed away on Saturday 18 May 2024. The photo above is of him in New Zealand in 1959 when he was on tour with the British Lions.

Tony O’Reilly was born in Dublin in 1936, and attended Belvedere College from the age of six. He was an altar boy and a regular attendee at chapel and became a senior member of the school sodality. He passed his Leaving Certificate exam when he was 17 but stayed on at the school for a final year to study philosophy and develop his rugby skills. He excelled in rugby and went on to become a record try-scoring Lions star. He went on to found Kerrygold, as well as become chief executive of Heinz and later of Independent News and Media.

Beyond his business success and his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth, he was also known for his philanthropy, setting up The Ireland Funds, which gave money from US donors to reconciliation projects around the Irish border. He also supported various other causes related to healthcare and education.

Tony O’Reilly was President of Belvedere’s Past Pupils Union from 1996 -1997. In a statement from Belvedere College and the Union, Kevin Lynch, Cathal Barry, John Reynolds and Gerry Foley expressed their sincere sympathies to his family, saying they were “greatly saddened” by his passing. They noted that whilst many fitting tributes would be paid to him, “Tony will always be remembered by Belvederians for his generosity to both Belvedere Union and Belvedere College SJ, and for his unending friendship with his classmates and fellow Belvederians.”

Also in his homily, Bruce Bradley noted that “Despite the diverse, colourful, often fast-moving and no doubt distracting world he [Tony] moved in so comfortably for much of the time, he was never ashamed of the religion he was raised in.” Fr Bradley went on to say that Tony O’Reilly had lived many lives in one life that was anything but mundane, “gifted and graced as he was in so many ways… It was a truly, at many times, a dazzlingly full life.”