Alistair Hanna: a businessman who made his mark from US to north Antrim

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He was a man who aimed to literally reshape Northern Ireland – or one part of it, at least.

Dr Alistair Hanna was an Ulster-born, US-based businessman whose plans to build the Bushmills Dunes golf resort led to a battle with conservationists which ended up in the High Court.

He had faced objections to his proposals largely because it was in such close proximity to the Giant’s Causeway; although despite his death from cancer on July 12, the development is still on course to proceed later this year.

Perhaps an even bigger legacy which he leaves is his work on promoting Alpha Courses, which lay out the basics of Biblical belief – something which will also live on long after him.

Born in Belfast on January 18, 1945, he attended Sullivan Upper in Holywood and later studied physics in Queen’s University, graduating with honours in 1968.

During his school and student days he attended the Ulster Temple Elim Church on the Ravenhill Road, and had also played rugby for Malone.

He went on to complete a doctorate at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Oxfordshire, before attaining a Master’s Degree from Harvard Business School in 1974.

From there, he worked for US corporate consultancy McKinsey for 25 years, becoming a director in 1986 and retiring in 1997.

After that, he founded the non-profit Alpha North America, aimed at spreading the Alpha Course message, later expanding the organisation to Latin America too.

Though living in the USA, he visited Northern Ireland regularly and harboured a dream of creating a golf course in the Bushmills area since the early ’90s.

He submitted an application in 2001 – but it did not finally get a green light until efforts to block it by the National Trust were thrown out of court in February 2013.

Dr Hanna already owned an established business in the Province in the form of Ardtara Country House Hotel, Co Londonderry.

He died in Long Island, New York, and had suffered from cancer for four years.

It was said that he knew he would probably not live to see Bushmills Dunes built.

Dr Hanna was 69.

He is survived by his wife Nancy – a retired Episcopalian priest – daughter Anne and brother David.