A happy ending – if you play the waiting game

Former proprietor of the Independent Tony O'Reilly has struck oil. It's enough to make you believe in happy endings

Share
Related Topics

There are very few times in one's life when there appears to be prima facie evidence of the existence of God. For me, it happened early yesterday morning.

Only a few days previously, I had been having lunch with a friend and we were discussing the travails of Tony O'Reilly, who once sat astride a huge, successful media empire (which included ownership of The Independent), but was ousted after a bitter boardroom battle with the telecoms mogul Denis O'Brien. It was a crushing defeat for O'Reilly, self-made billionaire, sporting hero and great Irish patriot, and I have always felt that the good guy lost. Of course, I come at this from a very partisan standpoint. For 12 years, Tony was the proprietor of The Independent and throughout that time I was its editor-in-chief, so I saw first hand how he defended the paper's independence, and took pride in its journalism.

For a man who was a supporter of the war in Iraq, a Eurosceptic and also a qualified admirer of George W Bush, this must have taken some doing, given that his newspaper was none of those things.

He defended me when a senior member of the Blair administration petitioned for my removal, and was resolute in the face of lobbying from pro-Israeli groups complaining about our Middle East coverage. Throughout this time, he put his money where his mouth was, and his financial support of The Independent through thick and thin – largely thin, it has to be said – was one of the things which caused him to lose his grip on the company. But it also ensured the survival of The Independent, which in turn gave birth to this newspaper.

As the commercial environment turned nasty, my meetings with Tony would become more like counsels of despair, but he was a great optimist (probably the most important asset for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit) and there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. For the entire time I worked with Tony, this glimmer of hope was in the shape of his oil exploration company.

"Once we strike oil off Cork," he'd say, "all our problems will be solved." It became a refrain as familiar to those who worked with him as the anecdotes he told. I thought the possibility of lucrative oil reserves in Irish waters was the stuff of mythology, as likely as a leprechaun walking down O'Connell Street.

For more than 30 years, Tony believed that the oil beneath the Irish Sea could be extracted, and spent vast amounts of money trying to prove it. Yesterday, with the news that Providence – the company in which Tony has a major shareholding – has discovered unexpectedly large fields of oil, that will yield 280 barrels worth £17bn, I couldn't suppress the most joyful whoop on behalf of a man who got old trying, and finally succeeded.

I'm not saying it was divine intervention, but it was enough to make me believe in happy endings.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
 

My shameful failure to live up to the spirit of Christmas

Howard Jacobson
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all