LORD Martin O’Neill, long-term president of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group, has died at the age of 75.
Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan became president of SEC Group in 2005 after serving as a Member of Parliament for over 25 years. He was for a time shadow secretary of state for defence in ex-Labour leader Neil Kinnock’s shadow cabinet.
SEC Group revealed his first ‘brush’ with the construction industry came when he was chairman of the House of Commons trade and industry select committee. He instigated an inquiry in 2002 into cash retentions in the industry – the start of a process which continues to be recognised as an issue to be resolved to this day.
He was an advocate for reforming the procurement and payment processes in construction and in 2009, launched a report compiled by SEC Group and other bodies representing the specialist engineering sector which concluded that the major barrier to progress in developing a more sustainable industry was the lack of collaboration between key project participants from the outset of the procurement process. Shortly afterwards Lord O’Neill was chosen to lead the industry’s interface with government when he became chairman of the Strategic Forum for Construction.
SEC Group’s CEO, Rudi Klein, who worked closely with Lord O’Neill for over 18 years said, “The construction industry has lost a parliamentary champion. Martin fully aligned himself with the challenges faced by SMEs, particularly their never-ending battles to get paid. He was not afraid to speak his mind and hold ministers and civil servants to account for their inaction.”
Trevor Hursthouse, SEC Group’s chairman added, “Martin was one of those few senior politicians who was well-grounded and respected the interests and opinions of people he worked with. He was a genuine and extremely caring man. He developed a passion for bettering the industry and could always be relied upon to provide sound and informed advice.”
SELECT, the trade body for Scotland’s electrotechnical industry, paid tribute to Lord O’Neill. Alan Wilson, MD of SELECT said, “Martin O’Neill was a man who devoted himself tirelessly and selflessly to public life, and whose intelligence and commitment to the causes he championed gained him recognition at the highest levels. He was also a warm and caring man and was very highly regarded by staff and members at SELECT, with whom he dealt in his capacity as President of the SEC Group. He was one of the good guys, and his wisdom, experience and friendship will be sorely missed.”