LAST week the world's tallest building opened its doors to the fizz and spectacle of an hour-long fireworks show. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the centrepiece of an overall development dubbed "the most prestigious square kilometre on earth".
Some people forget that part of that development was built by a celebrated company with a Mayo man at its helm, a firm that has stamped its mark firmly on the construction revolution in the emirate.
Yet more would wish to forget a history that involved disputes over pay and working conditions, which in turn induced widespread, costly and violent on-site protests.
Offices and cars were destroyed, security guards were targeted and hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage was caused in a highly publicised dispute that became the focus of a wider debate on employment conditions among foreign labourers in Dubai.
While last week's triumphant unveiling of the colossal tower was seen by many as a rebuke to negative media coverage, it may also represent the final glory of a global construction industry brought to its knees by recession.
But it is also another feather in the hardhat of Irish construction and the age-old stereotype of the wandering 'Paddy labourer' bringing his own grit and determination to the world's building sites.
Dubai's Old Town residential development, part of the Burj Khalifa project, was built by Al-Naboodah Laing O'Rourke, an offshoot of the UK-based company set up by Ray O'Rourke following his graduation from DIT and his emigration to England in 1966.
A self-described family man and rugby enthusiast, O'Rourke's background is familiar. Leaving his native Mayo as a teenager, he studied and worked as a labourer before taking jobs in a number of construction companies. He even worked as a mini-cab driver for a while. In 1978 he established O'Rourke & Son with his brother Des in a utility room office beside his garage. But things were soon to change.
In 2001 O'Rourke (pictured left)?became a phenomenon when he purchased the construction arm of John Laing PLC – down on its luck after losses on Cardiff's Millennium Stadium – for the paltry sum of £1.
From there, Laing O'Rourke's fortunes were on the up with turnover doubling between 2002 and 2003 to €2.5bn and a pre-tax profit of nearly €105m.
In 2003, Al-Naboodah Laing O'Rourke was established which, according to the company, was a "new identity" for John Laing International, which had spent 25 years in the Middle East.
"Initially, the people in O'Rourke were quite fearful of Laing and the people in Laing were quite fearful that we'd ask them to do things out of sync with what they were used to," O'Rourke told the Sunday Tribune in a 2004 interview while touring his Middle East projects which also included part of Dubai Airport's third terminal.
O'Rourke and his company have a reputation as down-to-earth, fair employers, a success story built on the back of hard graft, focus and a fixed determination to expand.
But publicity surrounding the company's construction of part of the Downtown Dubai development has not always been positive.
The tower itself is the focal point of two square kilometers of the flagship Downtown Burj Khalifa, near Dubai's main business district.
In March 2006 reports from the international Agence France Presse announced: "Authorities in the booming Gulf emirate of Dubai promised to prosecute Asian workers who took part in violent protests this week at the construction site of the world's tallest skyscraper."
The publicity was referring to an on-site meltdown of labourer's patience, which Al-Naboodah Laing O'Rourke was quick to put down to a "misunderstanding".
Around 2,500 Asian workers protested over pay and conditions with some turning their feelings into violent acts of defiance.
The Khaleej Times reported that around $1m of damage resulted from vandalism to cars and offices.
Associated Press reported: "Asian workers angered by low salaries and mistreatment smashed cars and offices in a riot that interrupted construction... on the site of a building meant to be the world's tallest skyscraper.
"The violence illustrated the growing unrest among foreign workers who are the linchpin of Dubai's breathtaking building boom."
The reports spoke of workers who "chased and beat security officers" before breaking into offices smashing computers and files. Some two dozen cars and construction machines were wrecked.
A worker identified as 39-year-old Khalid Farouk said: "Everyone is angry here. No one will work."
The incident was described as being a rare outbreak of violence in a region that was nonetheless becoming increasingly defined by its disillusioned foreign workforce turning a desert into a developer's dream.
The aggravation stemmed from the pay scales of those working on the site which surrounds the Burj Khalifa.
According to reports, skilled workers were paid $7.60 per day with labourers pulling in just $4.
At the time, a spokesman for Al-Naboodah Laing O'Rourke said the situation had been resolved and was down to "misinformation and misunderstanding with some of our workforce".
There is a broader picture. Millions of foreign workers arrived in the region during the building boom to seek work and their number eventually overtook the populations of countries like Qatar and Kuwait.
Incidents of unrest in Dubai were on the increase around this time, with Human Rights Watch (HRW) describing it as "one of the world's largest construction booms… feeding off its workers [who are] treated as less than human".
However, despite the negative publicity that surrounded the riots on the Al-Naboodah Laing O'Rourke development, Ray O'Rourke's company is certainly not one associated with imposing such conditions.
"We are not into hierarchy; it is not allowed," O'Rourke said in the interview, and he upholds an ongoing ethos of staff wellbeing.
The Mayo man seems uninterested in the trappings of normal multi-billion dollar companies – he even designed his own logo in around 10 minutes.
Believing that "it's all about the people", Laing O'Rourke is known for paying its staff more generously than competitors and was even known to share one-third of its pre-tax profit with employees.
While the company did not build the tower itself, its involvement in the overall development is just one aspect of its involvement in Dubai.
A spokesman said: "The company is proud of the work it has done in the Emirates which includes many significant projects such as Motor City, Dubai University Hospital, the Dubai Airport extension, the Old Town development and the Atlantis Hotel."