Northern Ireland news

Mourners line Newry streets as businessman Brian Conlon is laid to rest

Former Down GAA players form a guard of honor at the the funeral of Newry businessman Brian Conlon. Picture by Mal McCann
Seanín Graham

CO Down entrepreneur Brian Conlon was remembered as a "selfless, generous guy" as he was laid to rest in his home city today.

Hundreds of people lined Newry's main thoroughfare as the funeral cortège made its made its way past a credit union where the 53-year-old secured his first loan that would mushroom into a £1bn empire - bringing employment to a town blighted by economic hardship.

Businesses and shops closed as a mark of respect to the father-of-two, who died on Sunday after a cancer diagnosis revealed only in May.

Founding his financial software firm First Derivatives from a spare bedroom in his mother's house, the "unassuming" Co Down man "never forgot his roots" and became one of the country's most successful businessmen, employing 2,000 people around the world but with Newry as his base.

The former Abbey Grammar student was also passionate about sport and had a promising GAA career cut short by an injury in the 1980s.

During funeral mass in Newry Cathedral, a guard of honour was formed on steps by footballing stars from All-Ireland winning teams from the 1960s-90s, including Kevin and Sean O'Neill, Larry Powell, Paddy O'Rourke, DJ Kane and Ross Carr.

The worlds of commerce, politics and law were also represented, with high-profile businessman Feargal McCormack, property developer Gerard O'Hare and prominent lawyer Stratton Mills among the packed congregation alongside Sinn Féin MLA Mickey Brady and SDLP assembly member Justin McNulty.

But there were also hundreds of young mourners who had worked for Mr Conlon and who, as Irish News columnist Tom Kelly remarked, would have known their boss personally due to his unique management style.

Newry came to a standstill during the funeral of businessman Brian Conlon. Picture by Mal McCann

Gifts in the offertory procession - a football, newspaper and mobile phone - reflected the businessman's "passions" about sport, reading and conversation.

Fr Desmond Loughran said he "sadly never got to meet him" but added that "the magnitude of this guy is indeed immense".

He paid tribute to Mr Conlon's modesty about his extraordinary success.

"He leaves a huge economic legacy having given hundreds and hundreds of young students a first step on the ladder of their careers with fantastic life and job opportunities worldwide," Fr Loughran said.

"...With all that I have heard about Brian’s achievements, I am amazed that he was still,in many ways, an ordinary guy.

"It is true that his skills and abilities, his drive and ambition, his intellect and vision, or as his mum put it so lovingly, his stubbornness, allowed him to rise to the heights of the digital age, with his ideas and company whose success I cannot begin to fathom.

"And yet his uniqueness kept him under the radar, so to speak, as he was also quite unassuming, almost understated... he was always a selfless, generous guy. Giving and sharing were just part and parcel of who he was and what he did."

A guard of honour by former Down GAA players was formed on the steps of Newry Cathedral .Picture by Mal McCann

Fr Loughran also joked about Mr Conlon's ability to misplace important possessions.

"Despite his brilliant mind and intellect he still managed to lose passports by the score, mobile phones and, believe it or not, three wedding rings in a week and Julie (his wife) still loved him."

He said he could "not begin to imagine the pain" of the loss for wife and children, Fiónn and Danú.

As the Newry man's coffin was carried out of the church to the strains of Danny Boy, spontaneous applause broke out among the crowds who had gathered in the streets to say goodbye to one of the city's most famous sons.

The funeral of Newry father, businessman and former Down footballer Brian Conlon. Picture by Mal McCann

The funeral of Newry business man and former Down footballer Brian Conlon Picture Mal McCann.

Brian Conlon was chief executive of financial software firm First Derivatives

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