Why others should be inspired by the late Lord Ballyedmond
The deaths of industrialist Lord Ballyedmond, colleague Declan Small and two crew members in a helicopter crash in Norfolk are first and foremost a tragedy for the families of the four men.
They have been robbed of their loved ones in the most sudden and devastating manner and many questions about the crash remain to be resolved. The inquiry will centre on whether it was weather conditions, a mechanical problem, human error or any combination of those factors which resulted in the deaths.
What is undoubted, is that Northern Ireland has lost one of its most innovative and thrusting entrepreneurs. Having amassed a personal fortune estimated to be in excess of £600m, Lord Ballyedmond was reputed to be the richest man in Northern Ireland. Yet he began with little more than a briefcase and a price list of pharmaceuticals.
His is the sort of business success that is a far too uncommon in Northern Ireland. From scratch, he created Norbrook Laboratories, the largest privately-owned pharmaceutical company in the world, employing more than 1,700 people, most of them in the Newry area. He was an uncompromising businessman and his manner may not always have endeared him to others, but it helped him to succeed in a very cut-throat and secretive sector.
Of course, he was not the only one to profit from the growth of his business empire. His annual wage bill pumped millions of pounds into the Northern Ireland economy, as well as providing well paid and secure jobs. Given recent job losses in both the public and private sector, there is an urgent need for more business success stories like Norbrook, which provide value added employment prospects allied to a global brand.
Northern Ireland's economy has been too heavily dependent on the public sector for too long. That may have stifled the growth of the sort of entrepreneurship displayed by Lord Ballyedmond.
Where are the self-made men like him whose vision created wealth not only for himself but for the wider community?
He demonstrated that with the right products and drive, Northern Ireland is as good a place as any to base a successful business. His greatest legacy would be to inspire others to follow his example.