SOURCE: Denis O'Brien

January 11, 2011 15:30 ET

Historic Iron Market (Le Marche en Fer) Rebuilt Just One Year After the Earthquake That Devastated It

First Public Building Project to Be Completed in Haiti Spearheaded and Funded by Denis O'Brien

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI--(Marketwire - January 11, 2011) - As the first public building to have been completely restored since the devastating January 12th earthquake, the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince -- which was decimated in the quake -- has been re-built and will be open for business in the coming days. The entire reconstruction project was completed in just eleven months.

The official opening of the re-constructed building took place in Port-au-Prince today with the ceremony performed by President Bill Clinton, the Mayor of Port-au-Prince, Muscadin Jean-Yves Jason, Daniel Elie of ISPAN and two Iron Market vendors, Christophe Loge and Myrtha Sanon.

Decimated by a 2008 fire and the 2010 earthquake, the Iron Market was built in the 1890s in Paris. It was originally intended for a station in Cairo but was bought by Haitian President Florvil Hyppolite when the Egyptian deal fell through.

The rebuilding project has been funded and spearheaded by Denis and Catherine O'Brien in a personal capacity and is valued at US$12 million. Denis O'Brien is Chairman of Digicel Group.

It is estimated that over 900 vendors will operate from the new building selling arts and crafts, fruit and vegetables, dry produce and beauty products -- many of these had stands in the Iron Market for years prior to last year's earthquake which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Port-au-Prince.

President Bill Clinton said, "Denis O'Brien has been a catalyst for many of the good things that have happened in Haiti, both before and after the earthquake. Since last year, he's been the facilitator for our Clinton Global Initiative's Haiti Action Network, and to date, CGI members have made more than $224 million in commitments since the earthquake. I'm delighted to be here today at the opening of the Iron Market which is a cultural, economic and social landmark in Haiti."

Denis O'Brien comments; "A hive of economic activity, a place where industrious men and women meet, the economic engine for so many families -- the Iron Market is as important as a social and community entity as it is a place of trade."

He continues; "The project to rebuild the Iron Market back to its former glory is more far reaching than an architectural achievement. It is an important symbol of the country's recovery from the devastation and a window to a brighter future for the Haitian people. I would like to thank the many wonderful people who helped to make our dreams and visions a reality and the Mayor of Port-au-Prince, Muscadin Jean-Yves Jason and Daniel Elie from ISPAN for their fantastic support."

Although several major obstacles were encountered during the project -- like the rainy season, the cholera outbreak and a tropical storm stopping work on the site for a total of 20 days and the soil being mostly silt and so requiring engineered backfill to provide the requisite solid foundations -- the team succeeded in bringing the project in right on time.

Local workers, materials and other services were utilised as much as possible in the re-building project and at one stage, the number of workers peaked at 750.

In terms of the project itself, the clay tiles on the iconic Clock Tower roof are manufactured by the maker of the original tiles in 1891 in France and the energy supply for the new Iron Market building will be provided by 533 solar panels -- the largest solar installation in the Caribbean.

As a result of the large amount of masonry work required for other projects in the Haitian capital -- including the rebuilding of homes, other buildings and roads -- there were several acute shortages of concrete in the country. The shortage was due mostly to the lack of river sand. This delayed the building of the North Market foundations by weeks but it did not impact the overall schedule.

The parapet wall of the North Market is made entirely of bricks bought locally which were recycled from earthquake damaged and destroyed buildings. The bricks in the Clock Tower walls are those from the original structure made in France. During the deconstruction of the Clock Tower, it was dismantled brick by brick.

With the clocks damaged beyond repair, no mechanical pieces left and the porcelain faces cracked, replacement clocks were produced to be visually identical with the same script and hands as the original. The new clock, however, is a modern timepiece that is backlit so that it can be seen at night.

Decimated by a fire and the earthquake, the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince has now been restored as a cultural, historic and architectural landmark in Haiti.

About Denis O'Brien

Denis O'Brien is Chairman of the privately-owned Digicel Group, one of the fastest growing mobile operators in the world.

Denis founded Digicel in 2001 when the company launched a GSM cellular phone service in the Caribbean. Digicel has extended its operations to 32 markets with over 11 million subscribers in the Caribbean, Central America and Pacific regions.

He is one of Ireland's leading entrepreneurs with extensive investments across several sectors including international telecoms, radio, media, property, aircraft leasing, golf and other leisure interests. He also founded Communicorp Group which owns and manages a portfolio of media and broadcasting-related companies in Ireland and eight other European countries.

Denis founded the Esat Telecom Group plc and built it throughout the 1990's until its sale to British Telecom plc for EUR 2.4 billion.

Outside of his extensive business interests, he chaired the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland. It was the first time the Summer Games were staged outside the US with teams from 160 countries and over 30,000 volunteers. The 2003 Summer Games were the most successful in the history of the Special Olympics World Summer Games.

In addition, he is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Frontline, the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Based in Dublin, Frontline is working to ensure that the standards set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted in 1998, are known, respected and adhered to worldwide. Frontline's work consists of research, advocacy, communications/technical assistance and emergency evacuation of human rights activists.

In 2000, Denis established The Iris O'Brien Foundation to identify and assist projects in Ireland and internationally which aim to alleviate disadvantaged communities and serves as a Director on the US Board of Concern Worldwide.

In 2010, he was named Goodwill Ambassador for the city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti by the Mayor of Port-au-Prince in recognition of his efforts to rebuild Haiti and attract foreign direct investment in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake on January 12th. Digicel is the single largest private investor in Haiti.

He has also been appointed to the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

Denis holds a BA degree from University College Dublin and an MBA from Boston College.