President Michael D Higgins has led tributes to businessman and former senator Feargal Quinn, who has died at the age of 82.

Mr Quinn, who was best known as the founder of Superquinn, died peacefully at his home following a short illness.

He also served as a member of Seanad Éireann for over 23 years for the National University of Ireland constituency.

President Higgins extended his condolences to Mr Quinn’s family, saying that he was a gifted entrepreneur, "whose vision of customer service and innovation transformed the landscape of the retail trade in Ireland".

He said countless numbers of people had benefited from Mr Quinn’s counsel.

Mr Quinn would be remembered as a "force for change" in the Seanad, he said, as well as for being a passionate advocate on business, and for having been an eloquent debater.

In later years, Mr Quinn presented 'Retail Therapy' on RTÉ One television and contributed a regular column giving advice on business in the Irish Independent.

He also received several honorary doctorates from educational institutions.

He is survived by his wife, Denise Quinn, their five children and 19 grandchildren.

In a statement, his family said that first and foremost he was a loving and caring husband, father, grandfather, and brother.

They also described him as an ebullient businessman, entrepreneur, and innovator.

Former minister for justice Micheal McDowell described him as a "consummate gentleman"

On the same programme, Mr McDowell said that Mr Quinn was a man of very strong principles who had a very strong moral strength.

He said Mr Quinn maintained the highest standards in business, and endeavoured to know his employees and his customers.

"From the little things to the very big things he was a consumate gentlemen. All those people who had dealings with him will remember his kindness and his ability."

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said Mr Quinn was the best president that Ireland never had, and described him as a national icon.

"Feargal managed to relate to everybody," he said.

"His customers loved him, his staff never had a bad word to say about him and in the Seanad I never heard a bad word said about him."

The Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann described Mr Quinn as a gentleman who epitomised what Independent Senators stand for.

Denis O'Donovan said the "articulate quiet spoken senator" was a great advocate for the University panel and he made his mark without looking for headlines.

He said Mr Quinn crossed all party boundaries and made his mark on the Seanad in an independent manner.

Senator Jerry Buttimer said: "As leader of Seanad Éireann I’m very sorry to hear of the sad passing of former Senator Feargal Quimn. A visionary in business, he was very forward thinking and solution focused. He was an excellent parliamentarian and a most courteous and genial colleague."

Mr Quinn's friend and former Seanad colleague Joe O'Toole said: "We stood against each other on the same panel in six different Seanad elections and he never had a cross word in how he did his business. He was always a gentleman.

"The measure of him was his willingness to change and his frank openness to contrary opinions, as well as his equality of esteem to others."

Business reaction to the death of 'a pioneer' of the Irish retail industry

Reacting to news of the death of Feargal Quinn, Ibec's CEO Danny McCoy said he will be remembered as "a pioneer of Irish retail, a dedicated Senator and strong advocate of Irish business at home and internationally.

"He left a very significant and positive mark on Irish life. In his role as President of EuroCommerce he was the voice of European retail, commanding the respect and support of the sector right across Europe," Mr McCoy said. 

"His tenacity and skill in business was matched by a sense of duty and dedication in his public roles," he added. 

Chris Martin, CEO of the Musgrave Group, said that as the founder of Superquinn, Feargal Quinn was a visionary in Irish food and a retail pioneer. 

"Beyond the world of retail, Feargal made a significant and lasting contribution to Irish society and to political life as a member of Seanad Eireann. He was a leader who will be deeply missed," Mr Martin said. 

"Feargal was also a good friend to Musgrave and on behalf of everyone here, I would like to share our condolences with his family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time," he added.


'Everything in business is to get the customer back'


Businessman Ben Dunne has said Mr Quinn was a "really good businessman and a great Irishman".

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, he said Mr Quinn brought in a thing called customer service to the Irish retail sector.

"Retail is all about detail and Feargal would go to the finest detail to make sure everything was right for the customer," Mr Dunne said.

Meanwhile the former CEO of Quinnsworth also paid tribute to Mr Quinn, describing him as a "fierce competitor and tough as teak".

Speaking to RTÉ News, Maurice Pratt said he was a "fantastic ambassador" for the Irish retail industry abroad.

Retail Excellence Group CEO David Fitzsimons said the country has lost "a giant of the world of retail, a treasure trove of knowledge and advice and an enthusiastic supporter of aspiring retail leaders and entrepreneurs". 

Mr Fitzsimons said that Mr Quinn's family can be justly proud of his achievements and his lasting legacy.

Mr Quinn was the recipient of an Retail Excellence lifetime achievement award - just one of three presented in the history of its annual awards.

RTÉ also paid tribute to Mr Quinn, saying that he shared his "unique talents for entrepreneurialism and innovation" on the ‘Retail Therapy’ programme.

In a statement it said: "Feargal was a popular contributor to RTÉ, where he presented three successful series of Retail Therapy on RTÉ One.

"In that series, and as the face of the landmark Local Heroes campaign in Drogheda, he shared his unique talents for entrepreneurialism and innovation with dozens of business people and communities.

"RTÉ extends sincere sympathies to Feargal's wife Denise, their five children and 19 grandchildren."