GOODBYE Mr Chips! A veteran politician and chip shop mogul was accorded a civic reception last night ahead of his retirement after 30 years of public service.
Cork City Fine Gael Cllr and former senator Denis “Dino” Cregan was honoured for his contribution to local and national politics.
The former lord mayor and senator, who will not contest June’s local elections, said he was deeply humbled by the reception. He was joined by his wife, Mary, their children, Christine, Sean, Thomas, Derek, Denise, Mary and Noel, six of his 11 grandchildren, as well as dozens of family, friends and supporters, including George and Annie Simmones, who travelled from Spain.
“I would like to thank my wife, Mary, who worked behind the scenes with me all those years, and my family and friends for all their support.”
“It was a pleasure to serve. I am a different breed of a councillor. I served my way and loved every minute of it. When I did it, I did it with a passion,” he said.
“I spoke as a Cork councillor for and on behalf of Cork. I will miss the cut and thrust of it.”
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was among the hundreds to attend the ceremony. Also in attendance were TDs Phil Hogan, Bernard Allen, Simon Coveney, Michael Lowry, Deirdre Clune, Senator Jerry Buttimer and Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley.
Dino began his career in CIÉ as a helper on a lorry, working with the company for 11 years. He founded his business empire in 1970, opening the first Dinos outlet in Tower Street.
He was elected to the then Cork Corporation at his first attempt in 1979 to represent the South Central Ward. He has held the seat since.
Known on the ground for getting things done, straight-talking Dino played a key role in the development of Bishop Lucey Park and in the installation of a special memorial for emigrants on the city’s quays.
He was elected to the Senate in 1982, serving in the upper house for 20 years, and was lord mayor in 1991-92.
Over the years, he built a chain of chip shops and restaurants in Kinsale, Blackpool, Douglas, Bishopstown, Turner’s Cross, and two in Ballincollig. There are also Dino’s-affiliated restaurants in Glanmire, on the Skehard Road and Midleton. The company employs almost 150 people.
A self-made man, his company’s assets are worth an estimated €12 million.
Despite the recession, he plans to open at least three new “drive-thru” outlets in Mallow, Ballincollig and Douglas in the coming months.
“I started in business when I couldn’t even spell the word recession. We should drive on,” he said.
And he urged banks to back people with good business ideas.
Dino suffered a serious health scare earlier this year and underwent major heart surgery — although he stresses it has nothing to do with his decision to retire from politics.
“I was very traumatised by it. But I’ve never felt better. My mind has opened up. I turn 69 next month and I don’t feel it, I think as if I’m 40.”
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