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Obituary: Renowned businessman Pat Dougan who came out of retirement to try and save Mackie's

Obituary

Pat Dougan, the high-profile Ulster businessman who persuaded President Bill Clinton to speak at Mackie's factory during his historic visit to Northern Ireland in 1995, has died. He was 84.

Mr Dougan, who was famed for his skills as a salesman and entrepreneur, was identified with the success of Sperrin Metals, and later Powerscreen, which he led to record profits and growth before retiring with a golden handshake.

However, he was persuaded to come out of retirement by NIO Economy Minister Richard Needham to rescue the Mackie's factory.

In the mid-1970s it had employed some 5,000 people, but under-investment and stiff competition from the Far East had brought about a decline.

Situated at one of the peace lines in Belfast, Mackie's was regarded as too politically sensitive to be allowed to close.

Mr Dougan, who inherited a near-derelict plant in a troubled area, persuaded the Industrial Development Board to pour money in to provide a state-of-the-art facility.

Dougan believed that Mackie's future did not lie in its traditional textile business, but in diversifying, and he launched the company on the London Stock Market in 1994.

During this period there was optimism about its future, and President Clinton's presence at the plant in his ground-breaking visit in 1995 was powerfully symbolic.

He congratulated Mackie's as being a sign for the renewed hope for Northern Ireland.

At the time Clinton's televised speech came across well, but within a few years the £32m of public money pumped into Mackie's failed to keep it afloat.

Chris McGimpsey, an Ulster Unionist councillor who had been present when Mr Clinton spoke at the factory, said: "We felt that this was a whole new day for both communities, a new deal of peace, jobs and prosperity that would fall into place.

"It's now more peaceful, but the 'For Sale' sign over Mackie's is a real obituary for all the rest."

Mr Dougan, who stepped down in 1997, said that he had gone through "five years of hell" to try to keep the company together.

In 1999 Mackie's had no option but to call in the receivers.

Mr Dougan was predeceased by his wife Mary and their daughter Deirdre. He is survived by his children Paul, Adrian, Eimear, Ciara, and the wider family.

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