On his death, The Ireland Funds remember Sir Anthony O’Reilly

It is with profound sadness that we mark of the passing of Sir Anthony “Tony” O’Reilly, Co-Founder of The Ireland Funds. Together with the late Dan Rooney, Tony established our organization in 1976 at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland to provide support to peaceful initiatives that embodied the organization’s original motto of “Peace, Culture, Charity.”

Tony was known as an extraordinary businessman and Irish rugby player who achieved great success in both arenas. He was the youngest-ever player selected for the British Lions rugby team and set records throughout his career. He was the first international rugby player to be honored by the Rugby Hall of Fame.

His business career spanned the Irish Dairy Board, the Heinz Corporation, Independent News and Media, Waterford Wedgewood and the O’Reilly Foundation. He was knighted by the queen in 2001 for his “long and distinguished service” to Northern Ireland due in part to his philanthropic work with The Ireland Funds.

As his Ireland Funds’ family, we knew Tony for his incredible contributions to the life of the organization. The value of his charismatic and visionary leadership and guidance in co-founding The Ireland Funds cannot be overstated. Not only did he and Dan envision and create this organization as a strategic way for the diaspora to do something positive and impactful, he personally donated millions of dollars to the causes and projects we support and touched the lives of countless people across the island.

In 2016 on the fortieth anniversary of The Ireland Funds, Dan Rooney reflected on his collaboration with Tony in 1976 saying, “Tony O’Reilly and I discussed the direction to take. He kept us on the right path. At first, many people thought we were just another group trying to get guns to fight the peace effort; but we carried on and the idea for peace came to the fore. We were for peace, and we were going to stay with it. It worked.”

Tony’s own words on the work of The Ireland Funds were prophetic and inspiring. “You are building a modern and peaceful Ireland. We will not achieve our goals of peace, culture and charity in our lifetimes, but we will have passed to future generations our visions of a truly noble and inspiring Ireland. We must continue.”

The greatest tribute we offer is to continue the work he started. We are filled with gratitude for his life and for his friendship. We thank Tony for his vision, his commitment, his service, and his steadfast faith in our mission. His memory will live on in the legacy and active philanthropy of The Ireland Funds.

Our thoughts are with the entire O’Reilly family at this time.