Tony Barry, former CRH chief executive and Ibec president, dies

Businessman served on several boards, including as deputy governor of Bank of Ireland

Dr Tony Barry, former CRH chief executive and president of employers' lobby Ibec, has died.

Dr Barry, who was in his 80s, qualified as a civil engineer at University College Cork in the 1950s. After a brief spell in the Republic, he joined a British firm for which he worked in Africa, Australia, India and elsewhere.

He returned in 1964 to his native Cork to join quarry and cement business, John A Wood Ltd. Shortly afterwards that company became part of Roadstone Group. Roadstone merged with Irish Cement in 1970 to become CRH.

Dr Barry rose through the organisation to become chief executive of CRH in 1988, as the building materials group was establishing itself as the Republic’s biggest company.


During his time at the helm, CRH continued to expand internationally, including buying businesses in the US that became the backbone of its Oldcastle subsidiary, now a key part of its global building products division.

He retired as CRH chief executive in 1994, taking over as non-executive chairman until May, 2000.

In 1999, it emerged he had held an account with Ansbacher, used by some prominent Irish figures to avoid tax, in the late 1980s.

He confirmed that he deposited funds there for the benefit of two adult children, who were living and working abroad, and said that he had disclosed all details to Revenue.

Dr Barry said at the time that the matter had been “dealt with to the satisfaction of all concerned”. Eight of 15 CRH directors had held such accounts.


He was president of the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (Ibec) from 1996 to 1998, helping to lead the group’s campaign for tax reforms aimed at boosting the incentive to work.

The businessman served on several boards, including as deputy governor of Bank of Ireland, and as a director of food business Greencore and industrial holdings group DCC.

Dr Barry was a brother of Peter Barry – the Fine Gael politician and former minister for foreign affairs and tánaiste, and a son of Anthony Barry, himself a former Fine Gael TD and lord mayor of Cork.

His grandfather, also Anthony Barry, founded Barry’s Tea, now one of Ireland’s biggest tea businesses.

University College Cork awarded Dr Barry an honorary doctorate in 1995. He was a prominent member of the Irish Academy of Engineering.

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy offered his condolences to Dr Barry’s family.

“Over an extensive career across business and engineering, he was a central pillar to the remarkable development and growth of CRH, creating considerable job opportunities in the process,” said Mr McCoy. “He leaves an abiding legacy.”