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Ballina native and motorsport legend dies suddenly

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APPRECIATIONThe late Martin Birrane (right) receiving a special presentation from St Muredach’s College Principal, Leo Golden, for his dedicated and outstanding support to his alma mater in 2016.  Pic: Henry Wills

Anton McNulty

The sudden death took place over the weekend of Martin Birrane, the Ballina native multi-millionaire businessman who was one of the leading figures in Irish and British motor-racing.
The 82-year-old property tycoon was the owner of Peer Group plc and Mondello Park and an accomplished racing driver in his own right competing in the epic Le Mans 24-Hours on ten occasions and setting the Irish land speed record in 1990, on an unopened stretch of the M50.
Born in Ballina in 1935, he was educated in St Muredach’s College when he went to England aged 17 before living in Geneva where he studied hotel management.
He returned to England but emigrated to Canada after getting married aged 22 where he first got involved in real estate and set up his own business. He returned to England where he teamed up with his brother, John Birrane and his property interest grew. The London-based Peer Group currently has a property portfolio worth an estimated €215 million.
He was involved in motorsport for most of his adult life and competed in all types of racing for 42 seasons. His first race was in 1967 at the wheel of a Ford Anglia and went onto compete in the British Touring Car Championship, Formula 5000 and in sportscars. His final race was in July 2007.
Former Formula One driver, Mark Blundell was among the people who took to social media to express his sadness on his death and for his support to the British motorsport industry.
He was owner of racing car manufacturer Lola Cars from 1997 after he bought it out of administration and renamed it Lola Cars International. He is best known in Ireland as the owner of Mondello Park in Co Kildare, and was credited as saving the iconic motor racing circuit when he purchased it in 1986. He invested heavily in the venue and it is currently the only
In 2016, he returned to St Muredach’s College where he officially opened the The Martin Birrane Technology Suite after donating €25,000 towards the room which has the best and latest equipment. He said he was honoured to open the facility and also highlighted the possibilities this might offer by way of future employment opportunities in light of Brexit.
He is survived by his wife, Susan; children, Lis, James, Bridget and Amanada and grandchildren.

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