19TH - 24th JULY, 2020

‘Forty years of MacGill and the next forty years:

How to face the challenges ahead?’


Welcome to the MacGill Summer School

The MacGill Summer School will celebrate its fortieth anniversary in Glenties on the week of July 19th-24th 2020. 

We will look back at the four decades since its foundation and look forward to the forty years ahead. 

It is no exaggeration to say that revolutionary changes have taken place in the four decades gone by. Ireland has been transformed from a weak underdeveloped economy into one of the richest in the EU.  And perhaps the most startling statistic of all; its population is now at its highest point ever. 

But there have been ups and downs on the way, none more disastrous than the demise of the so-called Celtic Tiger, and the trail of destruction it left in its wake, the troubles in the North, which inevitably spilled over into the South causing massive suffering, death and destruction, as well as the rise in criminality and the failure to provide for a rapidly rising population in terms of health, education and housing and lamentable neglect of our environment with, as one of the consequences, widespread pollution of our seas, rivers and lakes.

As its archives will show, MacGill dealt with these and many other events within a general framework of reforming our governance and our political systems under the umbrella theme of “building a better Ireland”. In particular, we focused on a lack of long-term planning, the emphasis on short-term political expediency and the institutional weaknesses of a parliamentary system that could only be classified as dysfunctional.  The unavoidable conclusion is that most of our setbacks were self inflicted, caused by a departure from prudent policy making in the face of evidence to the contrary. Whatever government emerges from the recent general election and whatever the future political landscape we must have better governance so that the country’s prosperity, stability and progress are not put needlessly at risk.

At MacGill, we look to the past with one thought in mind-to better envisage the future.  The lessons learned and hopefully absorbed must enable us to face the next forty years with the determination to take all measures necessary to improve our governance which, apart from a few outstanding and visionary examples in the past, has been sorely lacking in innovation and imagination.  Such an approach to planning for the future will no longer suffice irrespective of which political parties are in office.

One thing is certain; the next four decades will be no less revolutionary than those just gone by and, if anything, more so.  Our future as a people will be primarily shaped by the evolution of the European Union, on which we must have defined responses and well thought out priorities and in which we must play a full and constructive part.  In the face of increasing political polarisation, the threat to democracy, especially from the far right, the emergence of China and India as world powers, the growing antagonism of Russia and even the US to the values and very existence of the European Union, the population explosion in sub-Saharan Africa, the digitalisation and automation of work which will radically change the lives and work patterns of mankind, the search for new horizons in space, the prolongation of human life with radical change to its needs especially in the areas of health and material support, we must plan for all these developments which will be an integral part of man’s and woman’s existence over the forty years ahead. 

Just how we in Ireland respond will depend on how willing we are to be open to new ideas, to be inquisitive and imaginative, to discard the redundant and to embrace the inevitable, in short, to be ahead of the curve.

It is in this context that long term planning should and must, be placed at the heart of the MacGill agenda for looking at 2020-2060.

Just as we have done during the past forty years, the MacGill Summer School will continue as a public forum where the big issues of the day and the mega trends shaping the future will be energetically analyzed and debated, where looking at the larger picture will predominate and where a cold eye will always be cast on the continuing need to reform our institutions and to stay abreast of change.

We invite you to join us on this journey of exploration and contemplation.

Joe Mulholland


In this era of immense promise and great danger, in the battle between enlightenment and a return to darker ages when forces might be unleashed that could destroy our democratic institutions and our hard won freedoms of expression the mission of MacGill is:

To provide a forum for well-informed discussion about the burning issues of our time, involving face-to-face engagement between experts and people holding responsible positions in  society, with the ultimate purpose of achieving sustainable social, economic and environmental progress in a challenging, turbulent and uncertain world.

General Information

Find places to eat, beaches to visit, golf courses and other places of interest around Glenties….

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About Patrick MacGill

Patrick MacGill became known as the ‘Navvy Poet’ when a slim little volume of poetry which he had mostly written when working on the railways in Scotland and which he called ‘Gleanings from a Navvy’s Scrapbook’ came to the notice…

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Cultural Events

The School has profiled artists, musicians and writers from a wide range of disciplines. See what’s on this year…

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History & Achievements

The school has grown from very modest beginnings to being one of the most important fora in Ireland for the analysis of topics of national and international interest. It has consistently been a source of innovative and fresh thinking on a range of social, economic and political ideas.

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An edited version of the MacGill proceedings was published every year up to 2011. And since then, the papers have been available in the archive section of this website. They are a significant source for postgraduate students in particular.

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Papers Delivered at MacGill Summer School


Speakers 2018

An overview of the speakers at the 2018 MacGill Summer School.
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Video Archive

Donegal County Council has partnered with MacGill Summer School to record and broadcast the proceedings live as internet webcasts and is making available in a video archive of all speakers since 2009.
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Webcasts Sunday 21st – Friday 26th July 2019

Webcasts of each session from the MacGill Summer School 2018 can be accessed through the Donegal County Council website.

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