Honorary Life Members 2015
Mrs Norma Smurfit
Norma Smurfit is rightly acknowledged as the Doyenne of Irish Charity work. Her crusade for those less fortunate than herself is well-known and respected. She started on a small scale by hosting coffee mornings for friends. From small beginnings, she has gone on to create initiatives and organise events in aid of charities in Ireland.
Charities Norma Smurfit has been involved with include:
- First Step which helps small businesses enter the commercial world through microfinancing.
- Spring Clean for Charity which encourages people from to de-clutter their homes and offices and donate items in support of one of the biggest charity sales in the country.
- Change for Charity, an innovative scheme developed by Norma Smurfit to make better use of small change, is being used by charities to raise badly needed funds. To date there are approximately 2,500 collection units across the country in schools, banks and retailers.
- The Irish Famine Commemoration Committee which was set up to remember the plight of the Irish in the 19th Century. Today it helps disadvantaged Irish people by bringing influential people to social events in European capitals with all profits of the trips being donated to charities such as Bernardo's, the ISPCC, Father McVerry's hostel and Focus Ireland. The statue entitled Famine created by artist Rowan Gillespie on Custom House Quay, Dublin, was commissioned by Norma Smurfit and donated to the Irish Government. • Fundraising events to benefit the National College of Ireland.
Mr John Magnier
John Magnier, the son of a Co. Cork land owner, is Ireland's leading thoroughbred stud owner and has extensive business interests outside of the horse-breeding industry. He has also served as a Senator in Seanad Éireann.
He was educated at Glenstal Abbey but left following the death of his father to look after the family estate. He showed an aptitude for matching blood lines from an early age. Moving from Cork to Coolmore Stud, Co. Tipperary, he transformed the stud into a multi-million Euro international business. There is now a network of stud farms, both at home and abroad, linked to Coolmore.
John Magnier began his association with Coolmore in partnership with his father-in-law and champion racehorse trainer, Vincent O'Brien, and Vernon's Pools magnate, Robert Sangster. Champion sires to have stood at Coolmore include Sadler's Wells, who was leading sire (by prizemoney won) in Great Britain and Ireland in 14 of the 15 years between 1990 and 2004, Danehill, Galileo and Montjeu.
Other notable Group 1 winners at Coolmore were Danehill Dancer, Giant's Causeway, and Epsom Derby winner High Chaparral. His racing empire is powered by a huge string of blue-blooded thoroughbreds trained at Ballydoyle by Aidan O'Brien, plus dozens of others in the care of a number of other trainers.
John Magnier’s other business interests include business and property investments. He was also major shareholder in Manchester United FC.
Dr John O’Conor
Dr John O’Conor is Ireland’s most distinguished pianist and is recognised as one of the best interpreters of Beethoven in the world. John O'Conor was educated at Belvedere College, Dublin and at University College Dublin.
He was awarded an Austrian Government scholarship that enabled him to study in Vienna with the renowned pedagogue Dieter Weber. He also made a special study of Beethoven with the legendary German pianist Wilhelm Kempff. In 1973 he won 1st Prize at the International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna and in 1975 he was awarded 1st Prize at the Bösendorfer Competition. Over four decades, he has performed with many of the finest orchestras in the world.
Of particular interest to Ireland is John O’Conor’s championing of the 19th Century Irish composer John Field. He has recorded most of the major works of Field, including the complete Concertos, Sonatas and Nocturnes. He has also made a recording of his favourite Irish airs with the Irish Chamber Orchestra entitled Irish Classics.
John O’Conor co-founded the triennial Dublin International Piano Competition in 1987. Its primary aim is ‘to provide an opportunity for young Irish pianists to participate in an international competition of the highest standard’. It is to his immense credit that the 10th competition has just taken place with huge success and with an assured international reputation in comparison with other such competitions, and amongst young pianists and teachers worldwide. He has been Artistic Director and Chairman of the Jury, and has been heavily involved in the 2015 competition, which attracted a huge international entry. The RDS is a sponsor of this competition and the early rounds take place here.