Finance & Management
Leadership Insight: Eoin McGettigan
Leadership Insight: Eoin McGettigan
headshot of Eoin McGettigan
Title: Chief Executive Officer

Company: Port of Cork Company Ltd.

Please provide a brief history of your career.
I’m originally from County Kerry, but now live in Cork with my family. Over the last three decades I’ve had experience as a Senior Executive in Retail, Wholesale and Property businesses in Ireland.

I’m a chartered accountant by profession, have an MBA and am a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accounts.

Prior to joining the Port of Cork Company in 2020, I held senior board positions in Musgrave PLC as Chief Executive of Supervalu and Centra. I also fulfilled the role of Group Finance and Operations Director of Dunnes Stores and CEO of Lifestyle Sports.

Alongside my professional career, I have taught on masters, degree and diploma courses at University College Cork, the Open University and the Institute of Project Management specialising in business acquisitions, major strategic change and quality management systems.

How has your experience of working over 30 years in Senior Executive roles in Retail, Wholesale and Property businesses, prepared you for your current leadership role in the Port of Cork?
I realised when I was approached for the role at the Port of Cork, that most of my time in retail was spent working around supply chains and getting goods from A to B. There is a degree of synergy between the work I do now and previously. It has been a new challenge for me too however, but working with great people, this is something that I have really relished.

It is also my first time working in the semi state sector and there are a number of big infrastructure projects ongoing at the moment that are really exciting both for us and for the Cork community. The calibre of people that I work with never ceases to amaze me, and I have also noticed the incredible role that Government Departments play in liaising with state bodies across a range of sectors – not just maritime and transport.

Looking at the bigger picture, forward planning is also very important to give clear direction for the future growth of organisations. This is something that I have garnered experience in over the last few years and in many ways, it has prepared me for my role at the Port of Cork. Our Port Masterplan 2050, that we are developing with our local stakeholders and community at the moment, is a symbol of this as it will act as a blueprint for the growth and development of the Port of Cork over the next few years.

What do you feel are the most important qualities that today’s leaders need to be successful?
The qualities needed in our leaders are the same today as they ever were in my view.

The first I would say is to lead by example by getting involved. I’d also say that it is important to be trustworthy and to be able to be decisive with incomplete information. These three qualities are ones that I would tend to focus on. Understanding the bigger picture in terms of what is trying to be achieved and why, should always be a priority for leaders.

Having had over 30 years working in senior positions, what aspects of your role do you find exciting and challenging?
I’ve always really enjoyed working with people. Particularly during my time working across the retail sector, I generally worked with family-owned businesses where there is a great sense of pride and community.

On the other hand, there can be challenging times when the business might not be doing so well, and you are responsible for making sure that the organisation continues to run smoothly. I have been lucky in that teamwork has always been a big part of any organisation I have worked in – and it really makes a huge difference when it comes to things like problem solving. Generally, there is always a solution and it’s about reaching that in the most fair and effective way possible.

The opening of the new Cork Container Terminal (CCT) is a great milestone for the Port of Cork. What does this mean for business growth in the Munster region?
The investment of almost €100million in the new Cork Container Terminal (CCT) enables the Port of Cork Company (PoCC) to deliver more efficient container handling facilities and is part of our strategic efforts to enhance and future-proof our offering and positioning as an international gateway for trade.

Ships are getting bigger and river ports around the world are too shallow to accommodate them. This global trend is what drives the PoCC to leave the city and move closer to the sea. The docks we leave behind will become the future heart of the compact city we all desire.

The CCT opening is only the start of developments for the Port of Cork as we are progressing through one of the most significant periods of investment in our company’s history.

Following on from the CCT launch we hosted public consultation days in Cork city and county, showcasing our vision for the future and emerging concepts of our Port Master Plan 2050. It’s vital for us that we bring all stakeholders on this shared journey. This includes consolidating our activities to the lower harbour area – away from Cork City, due to ever-increasing ship vessel sizes as mentioned earlier, creating a ‘river to sea port’. This eventual move will transform the port and the city, freeing up vital development land in the city centre, facilitating the future development of the City Quays and Tivoli Docks for both residential and commercial use.

A major condition of these pivotal changes is the development of the M28 which will connect Ringaskiddy directly to the main motorway network. Until this is developed, we cannot proceed with these ambitious plans and CCT will remain at 50% capacity until then as well.

As part of the Port Master Plan 2050, a number of concept proposals are presently being developed in response to the projected market growth in the current commodities served by the Port whilst also considering developing opportunities in future cargoes such as offshore wind and green energy fuels.

As part of our commercial energy strategy, the Port of Cork Company is actively engaging with organisations within the renewable energy sector, to discuss the potential for future development opportunities. We are keen to engage with organisations within the energy sector that share the same ethos around sustainability, to facilitate a sustainable future for the region and for Ireland as we work together towards net zero emissions by 2050.

Who Inspires you most in business?
I take inspiration from self-starters, either in history or business. I have no one person who I could say inspires me in business, rather there is a group of people. An example would be Ben Dunne senior, who left employment with Roches Stores in Cork in the 1940’s and risked everything he had to start a business as an example. I think Sean Lemass was inspirational as Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1932 onwards and helped develop the platform for the success of Ireland today. Florence Nightingale is also someone I find inspiring. She championed the use of data driven analysis, which challenged the status quo and changed the world.

What advice would you give to managers and aspiring leaders today?

I would encourage managers and aspiring leaders to focus on problem solving as part of their remit, especially collaborative problem solving. It’s always good to be mindful of proactively finding ways to overcome challenges and being open to think about ways of trying new things. Don’t be afraid to suggest new ideas within your organisation – sometimes we can be reluctant to challenge the status quo. New and innovative ways of approaching opportunities and challenges in a business setting can contribute to both personal and company growth.

When Thomas Edison was trying to raise money to continue his research into developing the light bulb, a potential investor chided him, “Why should I continue to invest when you’ve already had 14 prototype failures?” the investor quizzed.

“That’s where you’re wrong”, responded Edison, “more accurately, I’ve uncovered 14 ways not to make an electric light bulb”. The rest is history!