NORTHERN Ireland's Acting First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy Martin McGuinness have led the glowing tributes to Sir Allen McClay and his influence on the province's economy.
Mrs Foster, who is also the Enterprise Minister, said, “Sir Allen was a truly inspirational entrepreneur, with a real vision for Almac and the wider life sciences sector, and the personal drive to realise it. Almac was one of the first companies I visited on taking up the post of Enterprise Minister and it was clearly evident that his drive, determination and personality touched all those he worked with.
“In a relatively short space of time, he oversaw the growth of the Almac Group into a global service provider at the forefront of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, putting Northern Ireland firmly on the global map in a number of areas, including drug discovery and cancer diagnostics.
“However, whilst Sir Allen’s contribution to the economy was immense, we should remember that, first and foremost, he was both a family-man and an inspirational mentor to those who worked for Almac.”
Mr McGuinness said, “We have lost not only a wonderful businessman but also a true gentlemen. Sir Allen McClay was perhaps the most successful businessman we have ever produced. He placed the north of Ireland on the international stage.
“His commitment to business was matched by his commitment to charity. The McClay Foundation and the McClay Trust are just two examples of his dedication to innovation in both the pharmaceutical and health care fields. Sir Allen’s philanthropy changed the lives of so many people and his legacy will live on for many years to come.”
Craigavon Mayor Meta Crozier said that Sir Allen’s contribution to the borough economy was immense, “both in providing jobs and giving the area a positive image on the global scene”.
Mrs Crozier added, “I met Sir Allen for the first time a few weeks into my term as Mayor and was most struck by his down-to-earth manner and his modesty. He had promised to show me round Almac early in the New Year and sadly that won’t be possible now..”
Upper Bann MP David Simpson said,“Sir Allen personified all that is good in business and industry, and his entrepreneurial and innovative genius was matched only by his genuine philanthropic spirit. He was totally committed to providing employment for local people and determined that Craigavon would be a centre of world excellence.”
Sir George Bain, a former vice chancellor Queen’s University and a friend of Sir Allen, described him as "a creative entrepreneur in the Ulster tradition of people like Dunlop with tyres and Ferguson with farm machinery."
He added, “Sir Allen sometimes described himself as one of the world's worst pharmacists and would tell how in his first job with Glaxo he was soon taken out of technical work and put into marketing. He was the most significant philanthropist Northern Ireland has ever known.”
Almac chief executive Alan Armstrong said, “On behalf of all the employees at Almac we express our very sincere regret and sorrow at the death of Sir Allen McClay.
“Allen was a father figure to every single Almac employee, he often referred to his Almac family and we all shared that view of the organisation he created. Our sympathy goes to his family, especially his wife Lady Heather.”
Chairman of Invest Northern Ireland Stephen Kingon said, “I had the privilege of knowing and working with Sir Allen since the early 1970’s and his personal drive, ambition and visionary leadership were always evident. He rightly received a number of personal accolades, including his knighthood and being recognised as one of the inaugural inductees into Invest NI’s entrepreneurial Hall of Fame.”
Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey said, “Sir Allen’s entrepreneurial skills and philanthropic works will leave a legacy which will continue to have a positive effect on many individuals for many years to come.”