Funeral of businessman Tony O’Reilly to be held in Donnybrook on Thursday

Former Heinz chairman and Ireland rugby international died aged 88 on Saturday after a short illness

The funeral of businessman and former Ireland rugby international Tony O’Reilly will be held on Thursday.

Mr O’Reilly died, aged 88, at St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Dublin, last Saturday after a short illness. His remains will be brought to the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, on Wednesday evening and his funeral mass will be held on Thursday morning at 11am.

Mr O’Reilly was predeceased by his first wife Susan and second wife Chryss. He is survived by his children Susan, Cameron, Justine, Gavin, Caroline and Tony, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, his 23 grandchildren, relatives and friends.

Mr O’Reilly’s family have requested mourners do not bring flowers, suggesting instead that donations, if desired, may be made to the Ireland Funds, a philanthropic network which Mr O’Reilly set up in the United States in the 1970s.


The Ireland Funds were aimed at bringing investment to Ireland to encourage a “peaceful and fruitful coexistence in which both nationalist and unionist identities are mutually respected”. They have been credited with raising more than €500 million for community works on both sides of the Northern Ireland Border.

Mr O’Reilly was knighted in the 2001 British new year’s honours list for his work for peace in Ireland and was subsequently known as Sir Anthony O’Reilly.

Born in May 1936, Mr O’Reilly was educated at Belvedere College in Dublin, studied law at University College Dublin and qualified first and third in Ireland, in the two parts of his final professional exams. He first won fame on the rugby pitch, gaining 29 caps for Ireland.

Mr O’Reilly’s business career encompassed being general manager of the Irish Dairy Board where he created the Kerrygold butter brand. He moved to the Irish Sugar Board and from there on to the US company Heinz. He became the president of Heinz in 1973, chief executive in 1979 and the first non-Heinz family chairman in 1987.

Mr O’Reilly used his wealth to invest in Irish companies including Waterford Glass and Independent News & Media.

Business losses contributed to Mr O’Reilly losing much of his wealth later in life, leading to him eventually being declared bankrupt in the Bahamas in 2015 after AIB – which had opposed the bankruptcy decision in the Bahamas – secured a debt judgment against him for €22.6 million. He emerged from bankruptcy in December 2023.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist