James O’Dwyer: brilliant legal adviser with an unrivalled understanding of business and finance

An Appreciation

James O’Dwyer (March 2nd, 1947 –  July 29th, 2018): left an indelible mark as a respected, highly talented and   extraordinary counsellor

James O’Dwyer (March 2nd, 1947 – July 29th, 2018): left an indelible mark as a respected, highly talented and extraordinary counsellor

 

The unexpected and tragic passing of James O’Dwyer on July 29th has meant that Ireland has lost one of its finest legal minds. In a lifetime of business, he was, by far and away, the most outstanding legal adviser that I have known the world over.

James came into my life through an introduction by Maurice Buckley. We quickly became friends and I asked him to join me on the board of the TMG Group, where he served with great distinction. I then invited him to join the board of Jefferson Smurfit Group, where he served with me for many years. He was one of the most outstanding directors I ever had the privilege to serve with – on any board.

When I accepted responsibility for what was then Telecom Éireann, I could think of no one better to advise me and help steer it away from troubled waters. James advised the board wisely over the years and we guided that particular ship into safe harbour, reversing its fortunes and contributing significantly to the State.

For me, of much greater significance was a long and wonderful friendship built over decades. It is true to say that I lost one of my three closest friends in life with his untimely passing. We had so many good times together with his wife Barbara. We had many occasions on the Lady Ann Magee cruising the Mediterranean and other parts of the world, as well as travelling throughout the world to visit Smurfit factories together. His humour, humility and kindness were always self-evident. James was a gentleman.

A few weeks ago, we were chatting on the phone about the prospect of us both facing an operation – his in New York, mine in Monaco. We talked about it at some length. He asked me what I thought the better place was and I said, without hesitation, that the US is the outstanding place world-wide for medicine.

An unexpected complication caused his tragic passing.

To his family, he is, of course, irreplaceable. To his lovely wife Barbara, who he adored (and I have seen that affection first hand over many decades), she will have a void in her life which can never be filled. My heart goes out to her.

He was a dearly loved and loving father of Declan and Conor, and cherished grandfather of James and Juliet. He will be missed by his daughter-in-law Auveen, siblings Kay, Carmel, Peggy, Denis, Michael and John, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephews.

To his many friends, he left an indelible mark as a respected, highly talented and extraordinary counsellor. He was to me a person who I not only liked and respected but loved dearly. My loss also feels irreplaceable – that is how close I was to him.

We have lost a friend, a gentleman and a formidable contributor to Irish life. His family survives him, his legacy survives him and, when the sadness recedes, our memories of him will be filled with joy.

May he rest in peace.