Accepting their Outstanding Contribution to Business Award at the Irish Post event were Thomas Connell (director), James Connell (managing director) and Pat Connell (director); the award was presented by Makayla Rowan, director of Rowtree, sponsors.

Construction firm with Westmeath roots honoured at Irish Post Awards

A construction firm founded by two Westmeath brothers was honoured for its 'Outstanding Contribution to Business' at the Irish Post Awards in London on Thursday November 9.

Oliver Connell & Son is a specialist groundworks, civil engineering, architectural concrete, rail, and aviation subcontractor based in West London. The company was founded in 1974 by brothers Oliver and Pat Connell from Cullion.

Raised on a farm, they grew up ploughing fields with horses, milking cows, and helping out wherever they were needed. The strong work ethos instilled by their farming background remained a constant throughout their lives.

The brothers began their careers as carpenters with Mick Reynolds Coaches, a manufacturer of farming and general transport coaches. Oliver and Pat progressed into construction carpentry before emigrating to London.

They worked on various iconic London projects until 1974, when Oliver Connell & Son was established. What began as a small family firm is now one of the UK’s leading specialist subcontractors, turning over more than £140 million per year.

Since 2010, the business has been led by Pat’s three sons: James, Tom and Patsy. Oliver sadly passed away in 2020. Up until his death, he remained a “big force inside and outside of the business,” according to Pat, and was “a major influence to the second generation”.

When accepting the award, Pat’s son James acknowledged everything he learned from Oliver and Pat, saying they “taught me all my secrets”.

“...Just to be fair and be good to people. You know, [to remember that] business is people, and [to] build relationships. I'd like to dedicate the award to my uncle Oliver, who died a couple of years ago and can't be here with us, and my dad as well.

“My dad, he gave my uncle a kidney in 1975, so they were very close… I'd like to dedicate the award to Oliver and thank my dad for starting a great business,” said James.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, Pat, who was awarded the Freedom of the City of London earlier this year, said: “It was a fantastic night at the Grosvenor and a pleasant surprise to pick up an award amongst some of Ireland’s most recognisable personalities and businesses.

“On the night, Neil Jordan, Jeremy Irons, Nadine Coyle, Finbar Furey and the Gallagher Group all picked up awards, so to follow them was a real honour.

“However, to be recognised for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Business’ is an unbelievable accolade, as this stretches further than just construction. It feels great to be recognised for our efforts and it represents a peak moment for both the Connell family and the wider business.

“I hope this inspires many people, in that it reinforces the importance of your roots and upbringing. In my case, our working-class roots, both Oliver and I, created the foundation of the ethics, morals and values of Oliver Connell & Son, and helped a great deal in the formation of the valued relationships that my son James stressed the importance of during his acceptance speech.

“The future is bright for the business and as we reach our 50th year of trading, with three generations working in the business, including my other sons Tom and Patsy, I’m sure the next 50 years will be as successful as the last!”

The annual Irish Post Awards recognise success, excellence and achievement in the Irish community in the UK.

In total, seven awards were presented at the ceremony in the Grosvenor House Hotel. The event was hosted by broadcaster Eamonn Holmes and country music star Lisa McHugh. Guest presenters included Ryan Tubridy, Imelda May and Pat McCabe.