Obituary: Lord Ballyedmond’s vision created a global empire

Edward Haughey, pictured in 2005.
Edward Haughey, pictured in 2005.

He was a tycoon who once described himself in an interview as “elated by success, and educated by failure”.

He was also, in his own words to the News Letter in 2008, a man who was “prepared to be unreasonable” to get what he wanted.

Edward Haughey, also known as Lord Ballyedmond, was a self-made multi-millionaire whose vision and business acumen meant that, by the time of his death this month, he stood astride a pharmaceutical empire operating on an international scale.

Having grown up on a family farm north of Dundalk, he travelled to the USA at age 19 and worked for a medicine firm before returning in 1969.

He set up his own company, Norbrook, in Newry that year.

Five years later it was granted its first patent, then went on to develop links in Asia, Africa and eastern Europe.

Today Norbrook – which deals in both human medicine and products for farm animals – bills itself as the largest privately-owned pharmaceutical company on Earth.

His other business ventures included being chairman of Cumberland Breweries Ltd and of Haughey Air, a charter helicopter company ferrying clients to events such as the Ascot races and the G8.

That firm’s chief pilot was among the three others, besides Lord Ballyedmond, who died in the helicopter crash on March 13 in Norfolk.

He was one of the richest men in Northern Ireland – if not the richest outright – and last year’s Sunday Times Rich List cited him as being worth £860m.

But he was also a political figure too; albeit one who seldom occupied the spotlight.

The website, which keeps a record of the activities of Lords and MPs, notes just two speeches in his almost decade-long stint as a member of the House of Lords.

One fellow peer had said he often seemed somewhat “ill at ease” in the chamber, and in his first address he confessed to feeling “like a blushing maiden”.

In terms of his interests and beliefs, he is listed as casting a consistent vote on two topics: climate change (which saw him vote in favour of laws to combat it), and EU integration (which he had voted strongly against).

In his second and final address to the House in May 2006, he had spoken against the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill; essentially a pro-euthanasia bill.

But before his move to the Lords – in which he had sat first as an Ulster Unionist peer then later as a Conservative – he had been a member of Ireland’s Upper House, the Seanad, having been nominated by Taoiseachs Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern.

In a contrast to his later unionist and Tory affiliations, he was listed during both terms (spanning from 1993 to 2002) as sitting under the banner of Fianna Fail; the republican party founded by Eamon De Valera to which Ahern and Reynolds belonged.

He is reported to be perhaps the only person to have sat in the Upper Houses of both the UK and Ireland.

His status came with a price too – in 2006, dissident republicans reportedly placed a bomb in a house being built for him just south of the Armagh border. The device failed to properly detonate.

Among the accolades he earned during the course of his life were an OBE (for Services to Industry), an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the National University of Ireland and an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Ulster.

Born on January 5, 1944, he was 70 at the time of his death.

He is survived by wife Mary, daughter Caroline and sons Edward and James, plus three grandchildren.

Lord Ballyedmond’s funeral mass will be at 11.30am in Newry Cathedral on Monday.

It is open for all to attend.

He will be buried at Kilcurry parish cemetery, Co Louth.

On Sunday a funeral mass will be held for Declan Small, Lord Ballyedmond’s foreman who perished in the crash.

It will be in St Patrick’s, Mayobridge, at 1pm. It is likewise open for all to attend.