Dr Edward Haughey: Businessman who came from ‘bandit country’ to amass a fortune with his pharmaceutical company

‘He was an absolute dynamo, a phenomenon, he couldn’t stop – that’s the sort of guy he was’

The trajectory of the life of Dr Edward Haughey, who died with three others in a helicopter crash in rural Norfolk, took him from Northern Ireland’s borderlands to the House of Lords. Along the way he accumulated great personal wealth, creating an innovative pharmaceutical business which employed more than 3,000 people across four continents.

Some estimates placed his personal worth at more than half a billion pounds. It was a fortune built up after leaving school early in what a British minister once described as “bandit country,” the particularly troubled frontier which suffered from both deprivation and IRA activity.

He was not a strong ideologue and was never a committed republican. His first political move was to accept a seat in the Dublin Senate at the nomination of Fianna Fail. Although this is subtitled “the Republican party” he was an infrequent attender and was not noted for fiery speeches.

None the less, it was startling when he shifted from a southern organisation which advocated Irish unity to the Ulster Unionists, a party devoted above all else to maintaining Ulster’s link with Britain. He took his place on the red benches of the Lords as Baron Ballyedmond, the first person for decades to sit in the legislatures of both the UK and the Irish Republic.

Later he moved even further into the heart of the British establishment, switching allegiance to the Tory party and contributing substantial sums to its coffers. He was sitting next to Margaret Thatcher at a Lords dinner in 2008 when she became faint and was taken to hospital.

Not everyone in Haughey’s border heartland approved of his unusual odyssey, and not everyone approved of his sometimes abrasive and litiginous behaviour. But such reservations were eclipsed by the many jobs and high volume of trade he maintained in one of Northern Ireland’s security blackspots.

The authorities regarded his enterprise as a shining example of determination to overcome the most challenging of circumstances. His philanthropic donations, some of them very substantial, were also much appreciated. A headmaster revealed last week that in the late 1990s he had signed a cheque for £200,000 for a school building fund.

A menacing moment came in 2006 when the dissident Real IRA placed a bomb at a house being constructed for him. Luckily only part of the device exploded and no one was injured in what the government denounced as “a cowardly attack on someone who has worked tirelessly to create jobs and bring investment.”

Haughey’s principal residence was a spectacular seaside mansion in County Down not far from where he was born, but he also maintained particularly choice properties in England, including a castle and a majestic townhouse in London’s Belgravia.

Edward Enda Haughey was born into a Catholic family in 1994 on a smallholding near the border town of Dundalk, where he was taught by the Christian Brothers. After school he emigrated to New York, where he learnt the pharmaceutical business as a salesman and marketing manager.

He returned to Ireland in 1968 – just before the civil unrest broke out – to establish his own small-scale company, Norbrook Laboratories, with which he pioneered contract manufacturing of pharmaceuticals in the UK. Its growth was rapid, particularly in the veterinary sphere, so that today it is described as the largest privately owned pharmaceutical company in the world.

The success of Norbrook was not marked by any drastic setbacks though Haughey did admit in a rare interview: “I have made several mistakes and I’ve learnt from them. The worst mistake I ever made was probably not doing something – on three occasions I didn’t buy companies because I thought they were too expensive.”

Famous for his reluctance to delegate, he always maintained tight control over his firm’s activities. “I’m a self-made man,” he said. “I find it difficult to work with other people. I don’t know whether it’s an insecurity on my part or whether I’m an autocrat, or even a combination of both. But whatever it is, it has resulted in me not being able to work fruitfully with other people.”

Local journalist Eamonn Mallie said: “He gave a huge lifeline to south Armagh. He took over an old factory and he turned it into a huge concern. He was an absolute dynamo, a phenomenon, he just couldn’t stop – that’s the sort of guy he was.” A Unionist peer, Lord Reg Empey added: “He brought high-quality employment opportunities to this country during its darkest days.”

He was variously described as Northern Ireland’s richest man and the ninth richest person on the island of Ireland. His international property portfolio included land in Uganda and islands in Lake Victoria. He revelled in the trappings of wealth: in fact it was said of him that he lived like a lord. His County Down home was given a famously lavish makeover, one room’s curtains reputedly costing £30,000.

He was especially proud of a giant chandelier, of having a bathroom made of marble imported from China, and of having retained the Queen’s interior designer. He amassed a huge collection of art and, according to Mallie, “loved the idea of having a house in Belgrave Square and of having a castle.”

One thing which did not endear him to County Down locals was his readiness to resort to the law over matters large and small, the courts often hearing cases involving access to lands, planning rows and alleged libels. But some of the many tributes to him came from Cumbria, where he owned Corby Castle. Carlisle MP John Stevenson said of him: “He made a large contribution locally through his business interests and his charitable activities, many of which were done quietly and without fanfare.”

The Obama administration said: “His achievements brought significant employment to Northern Ireland and other places around the world, while his philanthropic endeavours helped improve the quality of life of countless others.”

Edward Enda Haughey, entrepreneur: born Kilcurry 5 January 1944; OBE 1987, cr. life peer 2004; married 1972 Mary Young (two sons, one daughter); died Norfolk 13 March 2014.

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup