Former IDA boss Barry O’Leary dies at the age of 71

BARRY O’Leary, a former Executive Director of IDA, has died in Dublin. He was 71.

r O’Leary ran the state agency for foreign direct investment from 2008 to 2014, which he took over as the world economy was heading towards collapse.

It was a challenging time taking the helm as Ireland’s own economy was in free fall and her international reputation was tarnished when she was saved by a landmark bailout.

But under Mr O’Leary’s leadership, the IDA still managed to deliver record levels of foreign direct investment to Ireland.

The fluent German speaking manager was an industrial engineer and worked for companies such as Nestle and Smurfit before joining IDA in the late 1970s.

From 1983 to 1991 he worked for the IDA in Germany. He later managed the agency’s offices in Stuttgart and Düsseldorf with responsibility for Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.

As Managing Director of IDA, he led a strategy focused on clean technologies and opened offices in Mumbai, Boston, Moscow and California.

And while Ireland remained mired in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crash, he and his team embarked on a world tour to meet the CEOs and other top executives of dozens of multinationals based in Ireland, to reassure them that the country was calm open for business.

He told the Committee of Public Accounts in 2009 that he was concerned that Ireland would be negatively portrayed in the press as it grappled with the aftermath of the crash.

“Foreign direct investment involves building long-term relationships with companies,” he said. “We could convince some companies to invest in Ireland three or four months after meeting them. For others, it could take 20 years.”

He added that the image of Ireland at the time “made it somewhat difficult for our people to receive”.

When he retired from that position in 2014, Ireland’s economic fortunes were already turning. By the end of 2013, it had ended its bailout program.

After leaving the IDA, Mr. O’Leary held a number of board positions. He has joined the boards of Zurich Insurance, as well as Oaktrees Targeted Investment Opportunities and German construction management company M+W Group.

Mr O’Leary died yesterday at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross. He is survived by his wife Mairéad and sons Ciarán and Barry. He is to be buried on Tuesday next week. Former IDA boss Barry O’Leary dies at the age of 71

Fry Electronics Team

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