OVER 300 people from the worlds of sport and business attended the 26th Tipperary Man of the Year Awards in the Red Cow Hotel, in Dublin on Friday.
Louis Ronan, the Clonmel based businessman who founded the animal health company Enfer, now a world leader in food safety diagnostics, was honoured at the ceremony for his contribution to business, sporting and cultural causes in the Premier County.
Mr Ronan has used the proceeds from his pioneering company to sponsor the Tipperary Hurling Team, and has contributed generously to other charities.
Also honoured with a Hall of Fame award was 97-year-old Jimmy Butler Coffey, whose hurling career spanned four decades culminating in All-Ireland triumph in 1937. Both winners' long associations with the GAA in Tipperary were reflected by the presence of Michael 'Babs' Keating, Ger Ryan of the Supporters Club, Captain Benny Dunne, and Lara Ryan of the Camogie Board. Also present were GAA patron Archbishop Dermot Clifford , and previous recipients John Lonergan, Governor of Mountjoy Prison, Alice Healy of Trust, hurler Johnny Leahy, and entrepreneur Louis Fitzgerald, who co-sponsored the awards with Tipperary Natural Mineral Water.
President of the Tipperary Dublin Association, Mr Michael Fenton, said that each year they have the difficult task of selecting those two people who through their achievements have brought honour to the Premier County. "When selecting a recipient for the Person of the Year Award, or the Hall of Fame awards we are conscious that it is the highest honour that we can bestow on a Tipperary person and I am delighted that this year again we have been able to acknowledge two people who in different ways have made a significant contribution to Tipperary and the Tipperary way of life."
Accepting the accolade, Mr Ronan said he felt humbled to be among such distinguished company as the previous winners. "When I saw the list of previous winners I felt doubly honoured. It is a list of people who have made an enormous contribution, not just to North Tipperary but to Irish life in general. It is with humility that I see my name on this list. Tipperary has always been important to me and I consider myself fortunate that I have been able to live and work in the county where I was born."
"I remember the '70's and '80's working in the family business in Rosegreen when times were difficult, and the future for Irish farmers was far from secure. Of course, I am delighted with the international success of the Enfer group and proud that it has been enabled us to bring economic and employment benefits, together with scientific recognition to Tipperary."
"I would like to give special thanks to my family, for their unfailing support, advice and encouragement over the years. I would like to thank the workforce of Enfer that helped achieve our success. And as an avid follower of all sports, something that has given me great satisfaction is that the success of Enfer has allowed us to undertake sponsorship and promotion of the GAA over the last few years and into the future."
"I think Tipperary can gain more success, not only on the pitch but also by competing nationally and internationally for commercial enterprise that would be of further benefit to the region. I want to thank the Tipperary Association for nominating me for this honour. As a proud Tipperary man there is no higher honour than to be nominated by your own people and I accept this honour with pride and humility."
Louis Ronan is co-founder and chief executive of the Enfer Group, which spearheaded the detection of BSE in cattle; their technology is now used worldwide. Louis grew up in Mocklerstown House near Clonmel and attended the National School in Ballyclerihan and later attended Clongowes Wood College where he was a member of the Junior Cup team that was beaten in the Leinster Schools Rugby Final in 1970.
After spending some years in England and Europe he returned to join the family business in Rosegreen. At that time the business was rendering animal bi-products and pig farming. In 1989, Louis joined with Michael O'Connor, a Kerry vet, to found Enfer Scientific, a biotechnology company that devised and marketed a test for equine fertility and later a test for growth promoters.
The onset of BSE in cattle posed a problem for farmers and for the Irish meat industry. The Ronan family and Enfer set about researching a test for early and rapid diagnosis of the disease.
In 1996 they launched the first rapid test for BSE. Previously it would have taken almost two weeks to get results from an individual animal but Enfer developed a test that gave results in 12 hours.
Enfer also began manufacturing test kits and by 2001, when an EU Directive required all mature cattle to be tested, Enfer set up the largest BSE testing site in the world. The system was approved throughout the EU, and is now the accepted technology worldwide.
The company has facilities in Clonmel and Kildare. The Newbridge plant has the world's largest BSE screening laboratory. Head office though is still in Louis' home town of Mocklerstown. Last year, Louis was a partner in a venture that built the only crematorium in Ireland outside of Dublin.
Despite the success of his various business interests, one of Louis' greatest pleasures has been his company's sponsorship of the Tipperary County teams of the past six years. This sponsorship, said Mr Fenton "is a marriage that is working very well and has enabled the County Board to go forward with some confidence in the knowledge that their backing comes from someone who loves Tipperary and not from a source that is swayed by passing commercial considerations.
The Tipperary Association is proud to honour a Tipperary man who has demonstrated on the world stage, qualities of expertise, courage and leadership in guiding his company to its present position as world leader. I have great pleasure in declaring Louis Ronan, Tipperary Person of the Year," concluded Mr Fenton.