Family and friends gather in memory of ex-Irish Times chief

Funeral of former group managing director hears of family man who achieved much

Managing editor of The Irish Times Eoin McVey (left) with Séamus McCague at the funeral of Louis O’Neill at the Star of the Sea Church in Sandymount today. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Managing editor of The Irish Times Eoin McVey (left) with Séamus McCague at the funeral of Louis O’Neill at the Star of the Sea Church in Sandymount today. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Family, friends and former colleagues of Louis O’Neill gathered in the Star of the Sea Church in Dublin’s Sandymount today/yesterday to remember a quiet man who in a long career with The Irish Times had achieved much.

Mr O’Neill, who died on October 31st aged 83, spent 42 years with the newspaper, rising to become chief executive and group managing director before retirement in 1999. During his time at the newspaper, circulation reached heights not seen before or since and there were several notable innovations during his tenure, not least the purchase of a press that printed the newspaper in colour.

Chief celebrant at his funeral Requiem Mass, Fr Martin Murnaghan, said that Mr O’Neill, who made his First Communion in Star of the Sea Church, was a man of faith.

“This is the place where he lived with faith and this is a faith which does not see an end,” said Fr Murnaghan, who noted that after retirement, Mr O’Neill helped with parish affairs and also advised the archdiocese on financial matters.

“Louis O’Neill was a man who understood the need for creativity and innovation,” said Fr Murnaghan, describing him as “a man of courage”.

“But that is not enough. One needs to have the qualities to make things happen. Louis was someone who could get on with people, bring people with him, and make things possible. He had leadership . . . And he never lost contact with his roots, here in Sandymount.”

Chief mourners were Mr O’Neill’s children, Deirdre, Jean, Denise and Stephen, and Mr O’Neill’s grandchildren.

In an address to a packed church, Stephen remembered a father who at home, made time for his wife Vera and their children. He thanked, in particular, the staff of St Vincent’s hospital who helped his father through a long illness.

And he also thanked Mr O’Neill’s long-time friend Alice Nelson, and her family, for their “friendship and unwavering support and positivity” which he said helped his father “during his darkest days”.

Offertory gifts reflected Mr O’Neill’s interests – a walking stick, his cap and the edition of The Irish Times produced to mark his retirement. Mr O’Neill was also an enthusiastic yachtsman and lover of horse racing.

Current and former colleagues present included retired editors Conor Brady and Geraldine Kennedy, managing director Liam Kavanagh and former managing director Maeve Donovan as well as John Fanning, Pat O’Hara, Gerry Smyth, Séamus McCague, Colm Fitzpatrick, Jerry Crowley, Eoin McVey, Freddie Snow, Carmel Daly, Gerard Kavanagh, Maeve Donovan, Pat McGolderick, Michael Ruane, Kieran Fagan, Colm Boland, Paul Gillespie, and Joe Mooney.

The president was represented by his aide de camp, Lieut Cmdr Patricia Butler of the Naval Service. Present too was Independent Senator Sean Barrett. Music was provided by pianist Peter Devine and soloist Deirdre Seaver who sang Ave Maria, Soul of my Saviour and In the Quiet, with harp accompaniment.