Skilled accountant who campaigned for cancer awareness

Hugh Cooney: February 5th, 1952 - October 19th, 2015

 

Hugh Cooney, who has died aged 63, was an accountant who chaired the board of Enterprise Ireland from 2008 to 2013 in very difficult economic conditions. He also served as chairman of Siteserv, and was a director of insurance brokers Aon McDonagh and Boland, the Ulster Bank and other companies.

However, he is most widely known for campaigning for greater prevention of colon cancer among middle-aged men, and for support for those affected by it. He had been diagnosed with stage four cancer two years before his death, and he wanted to warn other men not to neglect the warning signs as he had done.

He had been affected by an old man he met when they were both undergoing chemotherapy. “He was widowed and had one daughter in Australia. He had no one,” Cooney told Danny McConnell of the Sunday Independent.

Despite the onward march of his illness, Cooney spent much of his last two years campaigning and fundraising, and made a brave and emotional appearance on the Late Late Show on September 25th,

Cooney was born in Tullamore, Co Offaly, where his father worked in a bank. After attending primary school locally, he went as a boarder to St Finian’s College, Mullingar and later attended University College Dublin. Hurling and football were a large part of his life and he represented Offaly at minor level in both. Later he enjoyed golf and tennis.

With a commerce degree, and a ferocious talent for networking, he went to accountants Stokes, Kennedy Crowley, where partner Laurence Crowley encouraged him to specialise in insolvency.

In 1974, a mutual friend introduced him to a Dublin nurse, Nuala McSweeney, and they married the following year.

Varied career

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According to his friend Gary McGann, Cooney’s motto was “JDI” (just do it) although sometimes in speech the letter F got included.

Before the Irish Press newspaper group closed in 1995, Cooney was appointed examiner to the trading company Irish Press Newspapers Ltd and the title-holding company Irish Press Publications Ltd. Although efforts to rescue the business failed, union official Eoin Ronayne praised Cooney’s “unfailing commitment, drive and belief in the Irish Press workers”.

Cooney was thought to be the youngest insolvency practitioner in Ireland at the time. He had a happier outcome with the engineering contractor Kentz Corporation, which expanded too rapidly. In 1994. Cooney put together a rescue plan that involved a Malaysian investor, Peremba, injecting IR£6.5 million and convinced creditors to write down around IR£20 million in debts, saving the company. He also successfully conducted the sale of the Great Southern Hotels chain. After the Team Aer Lingus examinership, his focus tilted towards corporate finance.

As his coffin was being laid to rest in Shanganagh Cemetery in south Dublin, his lifelong friend Brian Cowen led the mourners in a poignant rendering of the county song, the Offaly Rover. “So adieu to you beloved Slieve Bloom, I must be on my way.”

Hugh Cooney is survived by his widow, Nuala, daughters Eva O’Donnell, Fiona Galbally, Gwen Corrigan and Laura Call, his son, Hugh, his sister, Evelyn, and brothers Stan, Paul and Gerald.