Sad passing of John McDaid: ‘a generous man of wise counsel’

Deirdre and Robert McCartney presenting the Ross McCartney Memorial prize for Irish History to St. Columb's College principal Sean McGinty and John McDaid (Board of Governers).  (1103JB40)
Deirdre and Robert McCartney presenting the Ross McCartney Memorial prize for Irish History to St. Columb's College principal Sean McGinty and John McDaid (Board of Governers). (1103JB40)

John McDaid, one of the most prominent and popular leaders in public, business and community life in the North West over the past 30 years, has died following a lengthy illness.

A chartered accountant, he was a major figure in initiatives to reshape the economic and social fabric of his beloved Derry as a founding director of the Inner City Trust, a visionary cross-community group that set about restoring the bomb-shattered city centre in the late 1980s.

He was influential, too, in wider efforts to bolster confidence in disadvantaged areas on both sides of the border, being appointed to the board of the International Fund for Ireland in 2006.

Mr McDaid was a member of the Council of the University of Ulster and Chairman of the Board of Governors of St Columb’s College.

He died, surrounded by his family, at his home at Culmore Road on Wednesday. He was aged 63. His funeral will be to the City Cemetery on Saturday after 11am Mass in St Eugene’s Cathedral.

Friends and colleagues described him a man of great charm and wit, a person of probity and principle, an expert professional adviser and personal confidante with an outlook that was calming and optimistic and always informed and innovative.

In 2007, Mr McDaid retired from practice as managing partner with the extensive cross-border chartered accountants, McDaid, McCullough, Moore, but remained active in roles that spanned business leadership, education, community enterprise and urban regeneration.

His widow, Pauline, is a former Head of Art at St. Cecilia’s College. The couple, who married in 1974, have six children, John, Aíne, Síle, Bríd, Rory and Maev.

At the time of his death, Mr McDaid was a member of the board of ILEX, the government-sponsored urban regeneration company spearheading moves to revitalise Derry on both sides of the Foyle.

Roy McNulty, chairman of Ilex, said last night: “John has been a member of the Ilex Board since 2006 and played a very active role in the city’s regeneration plans. His contribution as Chair of the Audit Committee was particularly invaluable. Above all, the Ilex staff fondly remember John as a man of sound judgment and good humour whose wise counsel was highly valued. He gave generously of his time and ensured best practice in accounting and corporate governance. I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to Pauline and the family. He will be greatly missed by staff and Board Members alike.”

In 1994-95, Mr McDaid succeeded John Hume as President of the St Columb’s Past Pupils’ Union. He had the distinction of being the first lay chairman and longest-serving member of the college’s board of governors.

Mr. Hume said of Mr. McDaid: “John was one of a generation of public-spirited people who used their professional and practical skills to help their fellow citizens and the city they loved. Pat and I are greatly saddened by his passing.”

Widely respected in the business community, he served as President of Derry Chamber of Commerce during 1990-2000. He was one of the prime movers behind the Derry Northside Development Trust, a community led group that injected new life into Carnhill and Galliagh when it opened a much needed shopping centre some 20 years ago. He was the Trust’s founding Director and Chairman.

Mr McDaid was also a director of the Ulster Community Investment Trust.

Mr McDaid took his first steps in his chosen profession, leaving St Columb’s College to serve his articles with the well-known accountancy practice, E.F. McCambridge & Co in Derry. He launched John McDaid & Co., in 1972, working from his parents’ home in Windsor Terrace. He later acquired the practice of P.K. O’Doherty & Co and was a founding partner of McDaid, McCullough, Moore.

Dr Edward Daly, retired Bishop of Derry and a founding member of The Inner City Trust Board, who was a long-time friend of Mr McDaid, praised his “sense of public office” and willingness always to contribute his time and talents to the role he undertook .

He said: “John was a valued colleague who had a deep sense of duty to the community. This was exemplified by his work with many different groups, including the Inner City Trust. He was always hugely generous with his time and expertise and brought a wealth of understanding and skill to his work with the Inner City Trust and his many other roles.”

Helen Quigley, Director and Company Secretary with the Inner City Trust, said the organisation was “deeply saddened at the death of our much valued and esteemed colleague.” She said: “John was a founder member of the Trust and from the outset made a full and meaningful contribution to all of our work. He was, first and foremost, a family man, with a strong community spirit and was passionate about his native city. John was particularly interested in the regeneration of the city and was keen to ensure a better future for our young people. He gave of himself generously. At this sad time, we offer our deepest condolences to Pauline and family.”

Foyle MP Mark Durkan paid tribute to Mr. McDaid as a “man of real charm and genuine care.” He said: “While his family were everything, he also applied himself to the well-being of his city and the wider country in many practical and selfless ways... John’s passion for this city was also reflected in his many charitable undertakings and his involvement in and support for so many causes and campaigns.”

Professor Deirdre Heenan, Provost of the Magee Campus of the University of Ulster, said Mr. McDaid had “contributed immeasurably” to the work of the university’s Council and was always a strong champion of Magee and its expansion. “We will all remember his warm and endearing personality as well as his sound and shrewd advice,” she said.