Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Fitting legacy for talented man

Dr Alistair Hanna
Dr Alistair Hanna

It is often said that Northern Ireland's greatest export is its talented people and Dr Alistair Hanna, who has just died, bears that out. A proud son of the province, he made his fortune in the US mainly as an executive with the management consultancy firm of McKinsey. But although he had been based abroad for more than 40 years, he never forgot his roots and wanted to create a lasting legacy here.

His plan was controversial, a championship golf course with a hotel and 70 holiday lodges on the north coast near Bushmills.

It was a proposal fought tigerishly by the National Trust, who lost a court action against the granting of planning permission for the project. There are environmental considerations being close to the world-famous Giant's Causeway and in an area of great scenic beauty and it is understandable that the Trust would be opposed to it.

But Dr Hanna saw it as fulfilling two of his great loves, creating investment in his homeland and producing a world class venue for his sporting passion of golf. In his mind, the project would create a must-visit venue for those who shared his love of the game and build on the reputation of Northern Ireland as the epicentre of the sport following the Majors-winning exploits of golfers Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.

He once said that his project was not building for today but for the future, the sort of vision that is required in Northern Ireland to build up the infrastructure in preparation for the days when the economy would be more robust than at the moment.

That sort of foresight is vital for a province which is hoping to attract high-value tourists and is shared right at the heart of government here, which has succeeded in making the province a venue for future Open golf championships.

Unfortunately Alistair Hanna will not be around to see his dream come true, but his family say the project will go ahead, with work beginning by the end of the year. If it comes to fruition, it will be a fitting legacy for this talented man and friend of Northern Ireland.

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