Tributes are being paid to well-known Cork philanthropist and businessman Dr Tom Cavanagh, who passed away on Thursday.
Dr Cavanagh, who was a native of Fermoy, passed away in his 92nd year, surrounded by his family.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he had been deeply saddened to hear of Dr Cavanagh’s passing.
“Dr Tom Cavanagh was an extraordinary entrepreneur who has made an outstanding contribution to Cork and to Ireland,” Mr Martin said.
“Tom was a thorough gentleman, a philanthropist who made huge contributions to UCC over his lifetime, particularly to the pharmacy building.
“On the removal of litter from public spaces, he led the national approach to reducing litter on our streets in towns and villages and cities across the country, and that in itself had a huge impact in the country improving its approach to litter,” the Taoiseach said.
“Tom was a very committed person, who had a tremendous commitment to his country, and Cork and the country are very much the poorer for his passing.”
Dr Cavanagh graduated from UCC with a commerce degree in 1951, and with a HDip in 1952, and he was awarded a scholarship to study in Italy.
He set up a highly successful motor business in Fermoy, and was well known in the town from early on in his business career as a generous supporter of local charities, clubs and community organisations.
He established Irish Business Against Litter in 1996, and in a statement IBAL said Dr Cavanagh had devised the Anti-Litter League in 2002 as a ‘name and shame” instrument to focus the attention of local authorities on the issue of litter.
He set up the Tomar Trust in 1994, named after Tom and Marie, and it has supported a wide variety of projects ever since.
In 2020, Dr Cavanagh became only the third Corkman to be inducted into the Cork Person of the Year Hall of Fame.
He was a champion of education and in 2006 UCC’s pharmacy building was named after Dr Cavanagh and his wife, Marie.
In 2018 a new pedestrian bridge at UCC was named after Dr Cavanagh.
Professor John O'Halloran, President of UCC, said Dr Cavanagh had been one of UCC’s dearest friends and supporters.
“A UCC student (BComm, 1951), a UCC alumnus, a remarkable UCC national and international athlete, who was named the best sports all-rounder in university on three occasions, a member of the UCC Governing Body, Director of Cork University Foundation, 1996–2007, UCC committee(s) member, supporter, advisor and mentor, a committed philanthropist and friend,” Prof O’Halloran said.
“Deeply proud of his time at UCC, Tom talked fondly of his time here and worked tirelessly for the University for decades.
“He was deeply motivated by a belief in, and a commitment to empowerment through education,” he said.
“The legacy of this commitment can be seen in many of the buildings in UCC but most importantly to him, in the lives of the students he has enabled through the education which he and his wife Marie have supported for decades.
“Tom steadfastly believed that together we can create a better world and he put the building blocks in place to help achieve it,” Prof O’Halloran said.
Don O’Leary, director of the Cork Life Centre, said he was very saddened at the loss of a personal friend, and one of the centre’s most loyal supporters.
“Tom Cavanagh believed in us when no-one did,” Mr O’Leary said.
“He was a friend and mentor and supporter of ours, and he did all in his power to support the Life Centre.
“Dr Tom was hugely supportive of our work in helping vulnerable young people, because he believed with all his heart in our work,” Mr O’Leary said.
“He nursed his beloved wife Marie through her final illness, and he was a kind and loving man, and we in the Life Centre offer our deepest sympathies to Maeve, Conor, Ronan and Fiona and all the family.”
In Dr Cavanagh’s home town of Fermoy, there were expressions of sadness at the passing of a man who had made immeasurable contributions to the educational, social, cultural and sporting fabric of the area.
In a tweet, Fermoy GAA Club paid tribute to Dr Kavanagh who they said was a "constant supporter".
All in Fermoy GAA are saddened at the death of our good friend and constant supporter Tom Cavanagh.— Fermoy GAA (@fermoygaa) September 9, 2022
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.https://t.co/pTuWCLUipg@AvondhuGAA pic.twitter.com/OGIsv2JD5D
Fermoy county councillor Noel McCarthy said the full extent of Dr Cavanagh’s contributions to Fermoy and the surrounding area would never be fully known, but his kindness and generosity would never be forgotten.
“You can see Dr Cavanagh’s legacy all over the town,” Cllr McCarthy said.
“The swimming pool, the walkway in St Colman’s, and all that he has contributed to the Tidy Towns over the years, as numerous other projects, all the sporting clubs and organisations around the town and area, we can never thank Dr Tom and his family enough.”
Reposing at his home in Rathcairn, Cork Road, Fermoy, Co. Cork (P61 EV50) this evening from 5pm to 8pm, Mr Cavanagh will be laid to rest tomorrow at Kilcrumper Old Cemetery, Fermoy following Requiem Mass at St. Patrick’s Church, Fermoy at 2pm.