Leading business figure Sir Anthony O'Reilly dies

Sir Anthony O'Reilly, one of Ireland’s leading business figures and a former rugby international, has died in Dublin following a short illness.

Sir Anthony, 88, built an international media business which at one stage owned more than 100 newspapers, including the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph.

He eventually lost control of the business in a boardroom battle and was personally bankrupted late in life.

Irish Persident Michael D Higgins led tributes to Sir Anthony, describing him as a "man of great personal charm".

Sir Anthony was knighted for service to Northern Ireland.

Mr Higgins spoke of his philanthropy "and the impact which that made on a north/south basis" on the island of Ireland.

In a statement, Sir Anthony's family said: "In the coming days there will be many worthy tributes made to Tony O’Reilly’s unique and extraordinary achievements in the fields of business and sport.

"As well as his extraordinary philanthropic vision which was best evidenced by the establishment of the Ireland Funds at a dark time in this island’s history.

"But, for us, he was a dearly-loved dad and a granddad.

"He lived one of the great lives and we were fortunate to spend time with him in recent weeks as that great life drew to a close."

Born in Dublin in 1936, Tony O’Reilly made his international debut for Ireland in rugby in 1955 and became the youngest player to be selected for the British and Irish Lions.

He scored a record 37 tries for the Lions, who in a tribute have described him as "one of the greatest of all the players to have worn the famous red jersey".

In his business career he pioneered the dairy brand Kerrygold, turning it into one of Ireland’s most well-known global consumer brands.

He later became the chairman and CEO of the food giant Heinz and in 1973 took control of Independent Newspapers, publisher of the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and Evening Herald.

He established The Ireland Funds, which gave money from US donors to reconciliation projects around the Irish border.

Sir Anthony was knighted in the 2001 New Year Honours by Queen Elizabeth II “for long and distinguished service to Northern Ireland”.

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Simon Harris said he was "a giant of sport, business and media and his passing will be felt by the many people he encountered in his long life".

The Tánaiste (Ireland's deputy prime minister) Micheál Martin paid tribute to him on X, formerly Twitter, as "a pioneering spirit who had an extraordinary impact on Irish business, sport, media and society".

"Through the Ireland Funds, Tony changed the global narrative on peace and reconciliation on this island," he added.

The Irish Rugby Football Union posted on X: "A legend of the game has passed. Our deepest sympathies to his family and friends."