Cork Chamber of Commerce held its annual blacktie dinner in the real capital on Tuesday, with a bash at the Doubletree by Hilton hotel (formerly the Burlington) in Dublin. It was a real A-list affair.
The man of the evening was Leslie Buckley, the Independent News and Media chairman and Denis O'Brien's veteran right-hand man. He picked up the Outstanding Achievement in Business by a Cork Person Award, and gave a heartfelt acceptance speech.
Buckley clearly knows on which side his bread is buttered, ladling praise upon the boss in his speech. O'Brien, who sat with Vodafone chief executive Anne O'Leary and Greencore's Patrick Coveney, appeared to come over all shy at the love bombing. He left the second Buckley's speech ended at 11.15pm.
Buckley was the final one at the podium, although the dinner beforehand was punctuated by lots of long positive speeches.
Julie Sinnamon, the new boss of Enterprise Ireland, earlier spoke of how she used to live opposite Buckley when she first moved to Dublin years ago. Apparently, she used to watch him coming and going from her window: "He worked awfully long hours."
Sinnamon made reference to an Irish company that won an air conditioning contract for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“I hope we’ll all be there to cheer on Ireland,” she said, prompting a fit of the giggles from O’Brien, who pays about half the management team’s wages. He might not still be laughing if he’s still shelling out a decade from now.
John Higgins, the managing partner of sponsor EY's Cork office, also spoke.
But the only one – fair play to her – to challenge the blue sky consensus was Gillian Keating, the president of Cork Chamber. She upbraided the Government for promoting a two-speed recovery of Dublin versus the rest.
Simon Coveney, Patrick's little brother and the Minister for Agriculture, took his scolding graciously from the front of the stage.