Lord Ballyedmond death: 'He was always very hands on. His death is such a loss and those will be big shoes to fill'
There was just one topic of conversation in Newry.
The death of Lord Ballyedmond – Northern Ireland's richest man – in a helicopter crash on Thursday night, sent shockwaves through the city. Everyone had an opinion on the colourful entrepreneur who ran Norbrook Laboratories.
While Eddie Haughey was a character who split opinions, the one thing everyone was in agreement about was that he brought much-needed jobs to Newry and the surrounding area – employing 1,700 people in Northern Ireland.
All was quiet at the Norbrook Laboratories plant yesterday and the company flag flew at half mast.
Employees outside the plant declined to comment on the death of their boss, saying they had been told not to.
Clare Manning (63) who lives beside the plant, said the usual billow of smoke that comes out of the factory each day failed to materialise yesterday.
She also spoke about her close friend who works at the Norbrook factory: "She loves her job and was very fond of Lord Ballyedmond. He would fly over in his helicopter to see them at work."
Clare added that there was a noticeable sadness in the air: "From where I live you can usually see the smoke coming from the factory, but there was nothing today."
In a city centre pub at lunchtime yesterday, a former security guard at Norbrook was not just as positive about the Baron of Mourne.
He said: "I avoided him at all costs. If he was in a bad mood and he didn't like the cut of your jib, he would tell you to get out."
It seemed that wherever you ventured in the Co Down city, there was no escaping the news. Even people waiting in the local bus station were reading the headlines.
Theresa Bradley, from Dundalk, where Mr Haughey was born, said his death has left a "massive gap" in the community.
"He was so hands-on all the time. His death is such a loss and his are very big shoes to fill for whoever takes his place.
"I know some people will have negative things to say about him, but he has brought vital jobs to this city and helped our economy.
"He was very good at his job. You don't get that far without trampling on a few people," she said.
Theresa raised an interesting question – who will fill his shoes? The future of Norbrook's management is unclear. In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph in 2012, Mr Haughey commented on who would take over the pharmaceutical company after him: "I have either the opportunity of taking my managers and putting in a system to incentivise them, or bring in one of my own family to run it and bring it on where I leave off. Will that happen? I honestly don't know."
Jim, also from Dundalk said he didn't know Lord Ballyedmond personally but heard he "was quite a formidable man, whatever he wanted he went after and got. But he also did good things for charity – perhaps that was his penance. And I am sure a lot of people are thankful for the employment opportunities he generated."
Francie Byrne from Banbridge said he was "shocked and surprised" when he woke up to the news yesterday morning.
"It is such a loss to the community. He was a very firm man but also fair."
Chris Hillen from Newry described Mr Haughey as "extremely successful".
He added: "He was good to the town, but he was a law unto himself.
"I know he could have been ruthless, but he didn't get to where he was by being nice to people."
Matthew Halpin added: "You would have seen his helicopter flying over Newry all the time. It is hard to believe."