‘Influential’ former IDA Ireland chief Barry O’Leary dies at 71

17 Oct 2022

Barry O'Leary. Image: IDA Ireland

O’Leary worked at IDA Ireland for nearly four decades and led the State agency during a crucial period for the country.

Barry O’Leary, the former CEO of IDA Ireland, has died at the age of 71.

O’Leary was appointed chief executive of the State agency responsible for inward foreign direct investment in 2008.

He led IDA during a turbulent period for Ireland’s economy, but when the country saw major investment from companies such as Facebook, Qualcomm, Indeed, McAfee and Intel.

O’Leary unveiled IDA Ireland’s Horizon 2020 blueprint in 2010, which aimed to create more than 100,000 new jobs by 2014 and regenerate cities, towns and regions across the country.

He was at the helm of the agency until 2014, when he was succeeded by Martin Shanahan.

‘Barry contributed a huge amount to the foundation that IDA is now built on’

“Barry fought tirelessly to win investment for Ireland throughout his extensive career and examples of the projects he was influential in winning are dotted across the country to this day,” said Shanahan, who is stepping down from the CEO role next year.

“I was always impressed by his passion for IDA and the job that he was doing and his singular focus on winning investment for Ireland. I am conscious that the success in winning investment that IDA Ireland enjoys today is built on those that went before and Barry contributed a huge amount to the foundation that IDA is now built on.”

Over the course of his career, O’Leary worked across several areas of IDA Ireland such as life sciences and ICT. After stepping down as chief executive nearly a decade ago, he went on to hold various board roles.

Shanahan added that O’Leary made a “huge contribution” over his 38 years of service to the State agency.

“Our thoughts here at IDA Ireland are with Barry’s wife Mairéad and his sons Barry and Ciarán at this time and his many friends in IDA Ireland and beyond.”

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Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic