Singer, designer and business leader named in honours list


Donegal-born singer Mr Daniel O'Donnell, Dublin-based fashion designer Mr John Rocha, and the Irish-born joint chairman of the consumer products group Unilever, Mr Niall Fitzgerald, have been included in Britain's New Year's Honours List.

Mr Rocha (48) has been awarded a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to the fashion industry. Mr O'Donnell (40) has been made an Honorary Member of the British Empire (MBE) for his contribution to the music industry. Sligo-born Mr Fitzgerald received an honorary knighthood for his services to UK business.

Mr O'Donnell, from Kincasslagh, Co Donegal, has a substantial fan base in Britain and has performed two major concert tours per year there for much of the last decade.

Mr Rocha, who was educated in Britain, was named British Designer of the Year in 1993. He has based himself in Ireland since 1978 when he was spotted by the then Irish Trades Council showing a collection based on Irish wool fabrics.

Mr Rocha was born in Hong Kong in August 1953. He initially studied to be a psychiatric nurse in England, before switching to the Croydon School of Art in London.

The 1980s brought mixed fortunes for the designer and his wife, Odette Gleeson, who is also his business partner, and they left Ireland to live in Milan.

On their return, Mr Rocha quickly established a reputation to rival the biggest names in international fashion. He has since branched out into other areas of design, creating a range of glassware for Waterford Crystal and helping to design the award-winning Morrison Hotel in Dublin.

Mr O'Donnell has been singing in public since the age of 10, when he joined his older sister Margo, a country-folk singer, on stage. He recorded his first single in 1983 and has had considerable success in the country charts in Ireland, Britain the United States and Australia. Long regarded as one of the country's most eligible bachelors, Mr O'Donnell last week announced his engagement to his British girlfriend, Ms Majella McLennan.

Mr Fitzgerald is an outspoken advocate of Britain joining the European single currency and the honour has given rise to speculation the British Prime Minister, Mr Blair, is ready to proceed with a referendum on the euro.

Mr Fitzgerald has been joint chairman of Unilever plc since September 1996. Well-known brands in the company's portfolio include Lyons Tea in Ireland, Flora margarine, HB ice cream and Bird's Eye frozen foods. He was born in Sligo in 1945 and graduated from University College Dublin with a degree in commerce. He joined Unilever Ireland in 1967.