Smurfit calls O’Reilly “one of the icons of Ireland”

Dr Michael Smurfit honoured with the Gold Medal Award by the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) for his leadership of Smurfit

Dr Michael Smurfit, the former chief executive of the Jefferson Smurfit Group, has described as "very lamentable" the financial difficulties faced by Sir Anthony O'Reilly.

"It is very lamentable that one of the icons of Ireland is in the difficulties he is in," Dr Smurfit told The Irish Times yesterday after he was honoured with the Gold Medal Award by the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) for his leadership of Smurfit.

"I just hope that it is resolved to everybody's satisfaction. With AIB against him, I suspect that all the other banks will row in and try to gather what assets they can. A fire sale is never good for anybody."

Earlier in a speech to members of the IEA, Dr Smurfit described Mr O’Reilly as “one of Ireland’s first ever great exporters” .


“Tony joined Bord Bainne in 1962. Through skill, vision and a formidable marketing plan, he transformed the perception of Irish dairy produce from commodity to premium,” he said. He credited O’Reilly with having the vision to launch Kerrygold butter.

“It is now an iconic brand all over the world. It was, and remains, one of the main foundations of the Irish food industry. Therefore let us not forget the very significant contribution he made to this economy,” he said.

Smurfit said he was optimistic about the future prospects of the Irish economy and said he believed food and technology exports would be key to Ireland’s current economic recovery.

“Contrary to the Governor of California’s recent comments, tax is a factor but it is not the factor,” he said.

"Ireland is the only country in the euro to speak English – a unique bridge – culturally and geographically, between North American and Europe. Half of our population is under 35. We have the best projected growth rates of any EU member state."