North's entrepreneurs miss out at EY Awards

Winner of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2017 Harry Hughes, CEO of Portwest and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald
Gareth McKeown

THERE were no local winners at the 20th annual EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards held in Dublin on Thursday evening.

This year the seven Northern Ireland finalists left empty handed as Harry Hughes, of Portwest, picked up the overall prize. The north has provided three recent outright winners including Peter FitzGerald (Randox), Brian Conlon (First Derivatives) and just last year Brendan Mooney of Kainos.

Patrick McAliskey (Novosco), Gary and Andrew Irwin (Bedeck Limited), Patrick McCann (Simplyfruit Ltd), Trevor Annon (The Mount Charles Group), Darragh Cullen (Edge Innovate) and Brendan Monaghan (Neueda) were the Northern Ireland representatives at the awards held in the Citywest Hotel

Harry Hughes runs the Co Mayo-based Portwest with brothers Cathal and Owen and between them, they have driven revenues from nearly €200,000 in 1979 to over €140 million in 2016. Founded in Westport in 1904, it is now a global safety supplier that designs, manufactures and distributes a full range of specialist workwear, employing over 2,000 people worldwide with sales in 110 countries.

In addition to being selected as the overall winner of EY Entrepreneur Of The Year for 2017, Harry Hughes was also named EY International Entrepreneur Of The Year. Evelyn O'Toole, founder of Complete Lab Solutions, was named EY Industry Entrepreneur Of The Year, while Jack Teeling picked up the award for Emerging EY Entrepreneur Of The Year. The Teeling Whiskey distillery was the first new distillery to open in Dublin for over 125 years and marked the revival of an industry long associated with his family and home town.

Over 1,500 business leaders from across the island of Ireland were in attendance at the awards gala, alongside guest of honour, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald to celebrate the achievements of the 24 finalists. The 2017 finalists collectively employ over 5,200 people and last year generated revenues of €477.5 million.

Chairperson of the judging panel, Anne Heraty congratulated the "outstanding" finalists and reserved special praise for the overall winner.

"This year Harry Hughes stood out - he is a visionary leader who has built a world class business from his roots in Westport, Co Mayo. Harry personifies the entrepreneurial spirit and is a role model for any aspiring entrepreneur."

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