39th Annual MacGill Summer School
Sunday July 21st – Friday July 26th, 2019
A GLOBAL CRISIS: CAN THE CENTRE HOLD?
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The Irish Nobel Laureate wrote these lines at a time just after the First World War when the perilous revolutionary state of his own country filled him with dread that chaos and anarchy might be the outcome as well as with tentative hope that a “terrible beauty” might be born.
The lines have a strange resonance in today’s world when the advances of science and technology continue unabated, whilst the fears for the very planet itself have never been greater and mankind faces unprecedented challenges which include the possibility of its own extinction. The belief, developed over many decades of wars and conflicts in embracing diversity and international cooperation and the fundamental interdependency among nations is being eroded by a narrow self-centred, fascistic, win-lose thinking – in many respects led by President Trump and his administration but prevalent across Europe and in other places.
As we entered the third millennium the world seemed to be on a largely positive and optimistic trajectory of expanding access to education for all, growing acceptance of and respect for human rights and the idea of a more unified world as technology and science brought the possibility of exploring the universe in which we live and survive even closer. This optimism has dimmed in the face of widespread suffering, hunger and famine and consequent large scale upheaval of populations, extraordinary wealth alongside grinding poverty and threats to democracies from authoritarianism and from the very technology that was expected to reinforce them. Abuse of the Internet leading to invasion of privacy and cyber crime represents a major threat to democracy itself and to the daily functioning of normal life everywhere.
Seen against this background, Brexit may not be the greatest threat facing mankind, but in an Irish and indeed a British, European and international context it is a serious threat at this moment in time. Whatever the final outcome, its consequences will reverberate for a long time to come, not least on future social, economic and political relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom but also on the future destiny of Ireland North and South. Brexit will, of course, feature strongly on the MacGill School programme as also will some of the other major issues of our time: climate change and its possible terrible consequences as well as the requirement of new thinking and new approaches to address the sustainability of our countryside ; the future direction of technology and robotisation that will profoundly affect economies, livelihoods and the work place and possibly contribute to further inequality and alienation; planning in Ireland for a growing population in a changing world and providing for fair and equal accessibility to health, education, housing and other vital services which will serve every citizen but especially the underprivileged; the tensions between prudent management of the economy and the politics of being re-elected; the necessity to reform and adapt our political system as well as our administration to a new and more demanding environment of innovation, accountability and efficiency; the absolute requirement, in the face of unprecedented challenges to its core principles and very existence from extremists and populists, for commitment to a reformed and stronger European Union with which our future is intertwined.
As always, the MacGill School will also look to the arts to provide entertainment, inspiration and hope as we seek to find a path through an agenda that reflects a very turbulent and uncertain world.
SUNDAY JULY 21ST
8.00 PM: OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE 39TH ANNUAL MACGILL SUMMER SCHOOL by H.E. Mrs Deike Poltzel, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Ireland
8.45 PM: THE 19TH ANNUAL JOHN HUME LECTURE to be delivered by The Hon. Mr. Justice Peter Charleton Judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland
A Recital with the distinguished artistes, Pianist, Dearbhla Collins and Rachel Croash which will include music by Puccini, TC Kelly and Massenet.
Reception (courtesy of the EU Commission Rep. in Dublin)
MONDAY JULY 22ND
11.00 AM: BREXIT: THE SOCIAL, POLITICAL, ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL FALLOUT FOR THE UK AND IRELAND NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE?
No one could have imagined the twists and turns that the saga of the UK’s leaving the European Union would take although it was obvious that, in the context of its significance for Ireland, the story would not end overnight. The fallout for Ireland in fact, whatever may now happen and, at time of writing, it is impossible to say, is so multi-faceted and profound that we will feel its effects for many years to come. This is especially true in the case of a no-deal Brexit which now appears likely in spite of dire warning by the Bank of England last December and on other occasions, that it would be disastrous for the UK economy. The Bank forecast that, were the UK to leave the Union on March 31st which was being planned for, GDP would fall by eight per cent next year and the value of sterling would collapse. This would also be a major blow for this country. Such effects would be minimised were the UK to opt to remain in the customs union or even opt for one of the other proposals that have been put forward. However, as we know, despite Theresa May’s efforts all have been rejected by a majority in the House of Commons. Unless the new Tory party leader decides to go back to the British electorate and put new proposals to them in a referendum, and the result is by no means a foregone conclusion, then the UK will leave the EU without a deal with serious consequences for itself and for Ireland North and South and indeed for Europe as a whole. In the case of Ireland, it would be disastrous as our economy and all sectors of it would be adversely affected not to mention the many other ties with the UK – social and political including, of course, Northern Ireland and the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Lisa Chambers TD, Fianna Fail spokesperson on Brexit
Prof Ronan McCrea, University of London
Dr Adele Bergin, ESRI, Senior Research Officer ESRI, Adjunct Associate Prof of Economics TCD
The RT Hon Pat McFadden MP, former political secretary to Tony Blair, former shadow spokesperson on Europe
Sharon Donnery, Acting Governor, Central Bank
Moderator: Bobby McDonagh, Former Irish Diplomat
2.30 PM: PATRICK MACGILL: ONE OF THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY STORIES IN THE ANNALS OF IRISH LITERATURE, Joe Mulholland
4.00 PM: BREXIT WILL LEAVE DEEP SCARS ON THE UK LANDSCAPE AS WELL AS THAT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION – WILL THEY ENDURE?
Dr Mary C. Murphy, lecturer in politics, Jean Monnet Prof of European Integration UCC, Author of: Europe and Northern Ireland’s Future
Richard Pym, Chair AIB, former Group CEO, Alliance & Leicester Bank
Bobby McDonagh, former Irish ambassador to London, former Ireland’s Permanent Rep. to the EU, former DG of the EU Division, Dept of Foreign Affairs
Douglas Carswell, former Conservative and UKIP MP
Moderator: Sarah Carey, Journalist
6.30 PM: A visit to St Conal’s Church in Glenties and an exhibition of the work of its architect, Liam McCormick, presented by Carole Pollard, former president of RIAI
8.30 PM: AS WELL AS THE DAMAGE INFLICTED BY BREXIT, THE COHESION, VALUES AND FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION ARE UNDER THREAT AS NEVER BEFORE
On January 27th 1983 the then Taoiseach, Dr Garret Fitzgerald, delivered an address in Belfast to mark the 10th anniversary of the enlargement of the European Community(to include the UK and Ireland) in which he said: “However creaky, however indecisive the European Community has been, it is nevertheless a solid bulwark stability in a dangerous and uncertain world”. How true this still is. In fact, the world is even more dangerous and more uncertain and a far larger European Union is facing even greater challenges from within and without. Preoccupied with Brexit for the last three years, the Union and all of its members have been diverted from many other problems some of which threaten its very existence. A Euro barometer poll found that 86% of the Irish were optimistic about the future of the EU but in the rest of Europe it was 58%. In the recent European elections, disaster was avoided by the narrow victory of centrist parties but the growth of the populist right across Europe and the serious weakening of the centre in some countries bode ill for the future of the Union. Furthermore there is the fragility of democracy itself in eastern and central European member states and their rejection of European social democracy and EU liberal values. As well as these factors, immigration, which has been to a large extent the catalyst for these developments, is set to continue in the absence of, as President Macron has pointed out, a policy vis-a-vis Africa the population of which will double by 2050. Add to all of this the fact that President Trump makes no secret of the fact that the days of the entente cordiale, between the US and Europe are over and that in fact his policy is to assist in the breakup of the EU and is working actively towards that objective with Vladimir Putin supporting this policy in his own way. We have never been in more need of strong leadership of the EU. That leadership must come not only from the EU Commission but from its two founding members, France and Germany both of which have their own internal crises to confront including economic slowdown in Europe as a whole.
Prof Brigid Laffan, Director of Robert Schuman Centre European University Institute, Florence.
Lucinda Creighton, CEO Vulcan Consulting LTD, former Irish Europe Minister
Dr Jennifer Cassidy, St Peter’s College, University of Oxford
John Springford, Deputy Director, Centre for European Reform, London
Moderator: Noelle O’Connell, Executive Director European Movement
TUESDAY JULY 23RD
11.00 AM: THE FUTURE OF IRELAND: FRESH THINKING IS URGENTLY NEEDED TO BRING NORTH AND SOUTH CLOSER TOGETHER AND TO PLAN FOR THE FUTURE.
One of the principal achievements of the Good Friday Agreement was to create the conditions for greatly enhanced cooperation between North and South. Strand 2 of the Agreement was designed to enable the realisation of this vision with the establishment of the North/South Ministerial Council (NSMC) which was given responsibility for twelve policy areas including health and education, environmental protection, transport, industrial development, energy and the promotion of Irish and Ulster Scots.
Because the NSMC required the participation of the Executive at Stormont, the Council didn’t meet for over two and a half years, thereby frustrating the work of the “Implementation Bodies” and other forums set up to drive cooperation on these areas of mutual interest. The tenacity with which the Irish Government together with the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland are resisting the re-introduction of a ‘hard border’ testifies to the existential importance of North/South cooperation. Economic prosperity, peace and social progress for all the people on this small island depend on coming closer together and the urgency of doing so is heightened by the instability created by Brexit and other external risks. Now, over twenty years on from the Good Friday Agreement, the challenge is not only to re-invigorate the platform for cooperation established back then but to bring fresh thinking to mapping the way forward for the next twenty years and beyond. Progress must be possible in all areas of public life, including politics, economic development and business, public services, sport, immigration, environmental protection and representation of our common interests abroad?
Denis Bradley, journalist, former Vice-Chair N.I. Policing Authority
David Gavaghan, former Chair, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) N.I.
Claire Hanna MLA, MLA for Sth Belfast, SDLP spokesperson on Finance and Brexit
Paul Gosling, former financial journalist London Independent, lead author, A New Union: a New Society
3.00 PM: IN MEMORY OF LYRA MCKEE
Lyra McKee was murdered in the Creggan estate in Derry on the night of Thursday, April 18th. She was a young journalist of twenty-nine years of age who had grown up in a working class area of north Belfast. She had moved to Derry to be with her partner, Sara Canning and had grown to love the city and its people. She was already considered to be a talented journalist with a great future before her. Her work was acknowledged as being that of a new fresh voice in Northern Ireland-that of a gay woman with no time for sectarianism and old prejudices but anxious to get to the truth in whatever story she got involved. Lyra made friends everywhere, irrespective of their political and religious beliefs. She had written a book on the death of Rev Robert Bradford a Unionist MP gunned down by the IRA in 1981 which was published in June, two months after her death. She had managed to get a two-book deal with the publishing house, Faber, the first of which will be Lost Boys-the story of children who went missing during the Troubles. Lyra’s ecumenical service in the St Anne’s Church of Ireland in Belfast was a beautifully moving occasion at which people from all walks of life gave powerful expression to the wish for an end to the barbarism that robbed Lyra of her life and robbed her family, her friends, her community, her society of such young talent and promise.
RED HANDS OF HOPE AND HISTORY – SEXISM, SECTARIANISM AND WOMEN FIGHTING BACK.
Susan McKay, Journalist, broadcaster and author of several books including “Without Fear” and “Bear in Mind These Dead”.
4.00 PM: WITHOUT TACKLING THE PROBLEM OF SECTARIANISM AND PREJUDICE, LITTLE PROGRESS TOWARDS A NORMAL SOCIETY IN NORTHERN IRELAND IS POSSIBLE – WHAT CAN AND SHOULD BE DONE?
“Living in the Past, there will be no future”(Lyra McKee’s sister, Nicola) Sectarian division and prejudices, for a variety of reasons, have been a feature of life in Northern Ireland for generations and remain so today well into the 21st century. Sectarianism permeates so many aspects of life in the province from lack of integrated education to the capital being divided in to protestant and catholic districts some of which are “fenced off” by high walls. Much of this is due, of course to the “troubles” which, apart from the victims of violence, left such a legacy of pain, suffering and distrust. The Good Friday Agreement, 21 years ago, gave a commitment to encourage integrated education and shared neighbourhoods but little has been done. To quote a recent report on sectarianism “Northern Ireland remains a deeply divided society” – a fact clearly demonstrated at election time although the recent success of Naomi Long and the Alliance party is a hopeful sign. Aggravating the sectarian divisions are the poverty and lack of prospects, particularly in the working class estates of Belfast and Derry where young people see no benefits from the peace process and power-sharing and see no hope of self fulfilment in the future. Some of them end up being seduced into paramilitary activity and the associated drug trade. And yet some things have changed. There was the voice of Lyra McKee and the wide spectrum of people who lamented her loss on the streets of the Creggan estate and in St Anne’s Cathedral. Some voluntary organisations, church groups, government agencies and committed individuals continue their efforts to create a society where respect for and tolerance of religious differences is the norm. Until the blight of sectarianism is exorcised from Northern Ireland a genuine peace and the prosperity of all its citizens will remain an unfulfilled promise. What can be done to advance this agenda?
Dr Katy Hayward, Reader in Sociology, QUB
Dr Duncan Morrow, Director of Community Engagement and lecturer in Politics, University of Ulster
Anna Mercer, Senior Consultant, Stratagem (N.I.)
Linda Ervine, founder, Turas Irish-Language Project, East Belfast
Moderator: Dearbhail McDonald, journalist and author
8.30 PM: HOW TO ACHIEVE A NEW AND AGREED IRELAND AND WHAT FORM MIGHT IT TAKE?
The Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1998 states: “It is the firm wish of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions.” The task of achieving this kind of Irish unity, a unity of hearts and minds as distinct from a unity of territory, as John Hume expressed it, remains very much a work-in-progress, with a long way to go. The Brexit Referendum in Northern Ireland which saw a majority vote for remaining in the EU has prompted calls for a ‘border poll’ to establish the level of support for a united Ireland. Provision for a poll was made in the Good Friday Agreement and, if there is a majority in favour of unification in both North and South, the UK and Irish governments are obliged to table proposals to give effect to that wish. While most unionists are opposed to a border poll and all that it might imply, Peter Robinson, at the MacGill Summer School last year, advised them to be prepared for such an eventuality. Not unlike Brexit, advocates for a border poll and a united Ireland make it sound easy, but clearly it is not. Alan Wyshall, of the University of London Constitution Unit which is examining the issue says: “An early poll, particularly if it takes place in a political atmosphere that is strained following a hard Brexit, could seriously destabilise both parts of Ireland and put at risk the political gains of recent decades”. This view is shared by Seamus Mallon who recently told RTE Radio: “Calls for a border poll are gathering momentum but this would be very dangerous, The Good Friday Agreement was not about fifty per cent plus one. Is Northern Ireland ready? Is the Republic of Ireland ready?” And just like Brexit, there is no picture of ‘what it will look like when we get there’. There is no shared vision of what a united or an agreed Ireland would look like, one that would reflect the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement. So, while there are few more sensitive topics, it has become important now to render it discussible: what form might it take and how would we go about achieving it with the consent of a majority of the people, North and South?
Micheal Martin TD, leader Fianna Fáil
Prof Peter Shirlow, Director of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, Chief Whip, Democratic Unionist Party (TBC)
Michelle O’Neill MLA, Vice-President, Sinn Fein
Moderator: Tommie Gorman, RTE’s Northern Editor
WEDNESDAY JULY 24TH
11.00 AM: CLIMATE CHANGE – THERE IS NO PLANET B! (A student march poster) “WE ARE FACING A MAN – MADE DISASTER OF GLOBAL SCALE” (Sir David Attenborough). IT’S FOR REAL – HOW WILL IRELAND MEET THE CHALLENGE?
How is Ireland going to meet the challenge of Climate Change? Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has described us as “laggards” on climate action. Ireland Inc continues to promote the intensive dairy sector in policies like Food Wise and to authorize more drilling for offshore oil and gas. We need to face the realities of a post carbon future honestly and learn how to live it. Ministers will be promoting Ireland’s belated Climate Action Plan but are our communities, industries and decision making structures ready for the transition? We will hear from student activists and others on how Ireland needs to change radically from the top down and bottom up.
Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment
Dr John Sweeney, Emeritus Professor of Geography, NUI Maynooth
Conal O’Boyle, student of Crana College in Buncrana climate change activist
Eamon Ryan TD, leader Green party
Jesse Dolliver, Trinity College scholar, chairperson of botanical society and of environmental society TCD
Moderator: Dr Micheal O Cinneide, Irish Forum on National Capital, a former Director, Environment Protection Agency (EPA)
2.30 PM: Distinguished Pianist, Evan McGarrigle plays Scarlatti, Beethoven, Chopin, O’Carolan and Brahms
4.00 PM: WHY DO WE HAVE FREQUENT SERIOUS COST OVERRUNS ON INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS IN IRELAND AND WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES?
The recent disclosures of jaw-dropping increases in the budgeted cost of the National Children’s Hospital and the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan raise many questions about the capacity of the State to spend public money with “propriety, regularity and integrity”, as it is officially expressed.
Does it all start with politics, from relatively small-scale stuff like political interference in deciding the location of primary care centres or the promise that gold standard broadband would be piped into every home and holiday home up every boreen in Ireland? Was it politics that delayed the construction of the NCH, thereby inflating the cost or vote-seeking rhetoric that promised to build the “best children’s hospital in the world” – while over 2,000 children with mental health problems wait for an appointment.
Does it come down to technocratic incompetence within the public service? Or is it a case of sound advice from officials being ignored by their political masters? Or is it both? Normally the public never gets to know who knew what, when and/or who made the decision to go ahead with the spend, even when there are multiple layers of oversight. Our perennial problem with lack of personal accountability when things go wrong and laying blame where blame should lie means that we are fated to repeat the same mistakes again and again. Questions arise about the widespread use of consultants from a small number of firms who earn a large proportion of their multi-million annual income from public projects. In the NCH case it appears that one firm was hired to evaluate its own previous work. How tempting is it for consultants to write a report that supports a minister’s prior intentions. Should the State not hire more of its own specialists and use more of its own resources? While the NCH and the NBP are the most shocking recent example of apparent mismanagement of public money they are arguably only the tip of the iceberg. The OPW has had to answer for huge over-spending for the Mesian Plaza, the new HQ of the Department of Health, and other properties. The annual report of the Comptroller and Auditor General is a catalogue of poor stewardship of the public purse? It is as if there is a serious degree of disregard for the use of taxpayers’ money within the State?
Colm McCarthy, School of Economics, UCD, columnist, Sunday Independent
Dr Karlin Lillington, columnist, the Irish Times
Robert Watt, Secretary – General, Dept of Public Expenditure & Reform
Moderator: Dr Eddie Molloy, Management Consultant
8.30 PM: WITH ITS NATURAL HABITAT AND ENVIRONMENT IRELAND HAS A MAJOR RESOURCE WHICH IS AT RISK OF BEING DESTROYED.
The challenges of climate change, water management and protecting nature need to be looked at in unison. Ireland has a long tradition of social learning at local community level but our national structures seem to be much slower to learn and adapt. As state agencies, local businesses, schools and citizen groups, we all have a role in tackling the challenges of building a healthier, more sustainable Ireland for the 21st century.
Dr Yvonne Buckley, Prof of Zoology TCD, chair of Biodiversity Forum
Dr Easkey Britton, Whitaker Institute NUIG, winner of five Irish National Surfing Championships
Padraig Fogarty, Irish Wildlife Trust, Author of Whittled Away-Ireland’s Vanishing Nature
Catherine Devitt, Head of policy with Stop Climate Chaos
Moderator: Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh, CEO, Údarás na Gaeltachta
THURSDAY JULY 25TH
11.00 AM: THE DARKENING OF THE DIGITAL DREAM: THE PROMISE AND THE DANGERS OF INFINITE CONNECTIVITY, ROBOTICS AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE.
The promise of the digital dream is connectivity ‘any time, any place’; access to infinite repositories of knowledge; ease of doing business with your bank and local fast food restaurant; and elimination of the drudgery of boring work through robotics, automation and the application of artificial intelligence.
However, the dark side of digitisation and artificial intelligence is dawning on us. “Digital is overtaking and redefining everything that is familiar before we have had a chance to ponder and decide… It has grown like an alien species that invades a pristine landscape that has no natural predators, laws or competitors to halt its progress.” (Shoshanna Zuboff, author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”). We see our democratic system undermined by malign actors, invasion of our privacy, an explosion of cyber crime, corruption of young minds, impoverishment of communities with the death of ‘old industries’ and the increasing concentration of massive wealth in the hands of the few. The most disturbing impact is the subtle erosion of human freedom, the precise opposite of the seductive promise of enhancing our capacity for self-direction and living effective lives. Enormous companies like Facebook and Google hoover up information gleaned from our booking a plane ticket, watching our favourite TV show, and especially our messaging on social media. They analyse this information to extract insights about you, me and our communities that enable them to predict how we will behave and to steer and manipulate our decisions, for example when we vote or go shopping for groceries. Faced with this predatory behaviour that threatens our individuality, our entitlement to self-determination, our way of life and our democratic institutions, the EU, led by Helen Dixon, EU Data Commissioner based in Dublin, has taken the lead in developing a regulatory regime to protect our privacy and other human rights and to protect our institutions. What must be done by each individual, the State and especially the industry to harness the huge benefits of digitisation while mitigating its destructive, subversive, exploitative, sinister applications?
Prof Martin McGinnity, Professor of Intelligent Systems at Ulster University and Professor of Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics at
Nottingham Trent University
Prof Maire O’Neill, School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, QUB
Dr Anthony Anderson, Head of Data Science at Conjura
Moderator: Dr Karlin Lillington, Columnist, The Irish Times
2.00 PM: Visit to the exhibition: A Long Farewell – Emigration of Donegal Women 1845 1955. Introduction by Caroline Carr, Curator, Donegal County Museum in the Scoil Mhuire N.S.
Visit to The Laurels – home of the five McLoone sisters immortalised in Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa
4.00 PM: IRELAND IS ONE OF THE BETTER OFF COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD BUT, WITH CHILD POVERTY AND INEQUALITY OF ACCESS TO VITAL SERVICES WHERE IS THE JUST SOCIETY?
Ireland is one of the better off countries in the world but “Child poverty is a reality for one in five children in Ireland, about 230,000 children”. (Social Justice Ireland, April 2019). Approximately one in seven of the population as a whole live below the poverty line, which means “their resources (material, cultural and social) are so inadequate as to preclude them from having a standard of living regarded as acceptable by Irish society generally.” (National anti-Poverty Strategy, 1997). Crucially, poverty not only means going without certain necessities; it means that people “may be excluded and marginalised from participating in activities that are considered normal for other people in society” (NAPS). It also means that they must endure the privations of our two-tier health service, two tier system of justice, and two tier education system. Poorer people die earlier than better off people, not only because of bad diet but also because they cannot afford private health insurance and have no option but to join the ever-lengthening hospital waiting lists. 10,000 people are homeless. Women are disproportionately impacted by inequality. The risk of poverty is higher in rural areas than in urban areas. Apart from the deep injustice reflected in these facts of Irish life, the marginalisation and sense of powerlessness experienced by so many people is a recipe for social instability, resulting from the manipulative exploitation of their legitimate grievances by populist leaders who offer simplistic, instant solutions to the plight of the ‘left behind’. It is now becoming generally accepted that rampant capitalism alongside inequality and social hardship is leading to alienation from and disaffection with the democratic system. We didn’t get here by accident or because we did not have the money. It is a result of economic policies pursued over decades. So what is the solution? Is it “putting more money back in people’s pockets”, especially the pockets of those who “get up in the morning”? What has the Left got to offer that adds up? In any case, calling for action on inequality is no longer the exclusive agenda of the Left; even the masters of the universe who gather in Davos now recognise the instability of a world that tolerates rampant inequality.
What are the initiatives that can and must be taken in Ireland to effectively reduce poverty and inequality and provide more opportunities to the have-nots rather than the haves.
Dr Niamh Hourigan, Vice-President Academic Affairs, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick
Shana Cohen, Director, TASC
Prof John Fitzgerald, Columnist and Adjunct Professor of Economics, TCD
Moderator: Elaine Prendiville, Magazine editor, Sunday Business Post.
8.30 PM: THE DUBLIN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ECONOMIC SESSION
IRELAND’S ECONOMY IS BOOMING. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
By any yardstick, the recovery of Ireland’s economy in the decade since the implosion of the banks and collapse in public finances has been truly remarkable. The economy is booming, we have virtually full employment and the skyline is dotted with cranes; sun holidays out of Ireland have broken the two million mark and new restaurants spring up every week to meet the demand for dining out; and the government promises to reduce taxes and put more money back in people’s pockets. As Seamus Coffey, Chairman of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has reminded us, however, we’ve been here before and it behoves us to learn the lessons of the recent past, when overnight the party ended leaving a painful legacy that, like the detritus of a tsunami, is still with us. He has issued strong, explicit warnings to government and the nation that we are in danger of another boom to bust crash.
What could go wrong this time? Experts say it is unlikely it will be another banking crisis, but there are plenty of other major threats including Brexit, global trade wars triggered by president Trump and changes to the global tax regime applicable to the kind of companies that have paid the bulk of ballooning corporate taxes to the exchequer at a rate that no one believes will be sustained. Our national debt has continued to grow right up to the present time and reducing it will be more difficult as interest rates inevitably rise. With a steadily growing population, tackling the infrastructure deficit in schools, the health service, transport, water services and broadband – to mention just the most obvious areas- will place huge demands on the public purse. What could go wrong is that the government, under pressure from all political parties and facing into a General Election, will act imprudently, over spending and over-promising to win votes. Contrary to the repeated framing of the October 2019 budget by Minister Paschal Donohue as “prudent”, Seamus Coffey has explicitly deemed it to have been imprudent. That budget had all the appearances of an ‘election budget’. A lot could go badly wrong in a very volatile and uncertain global environment. For all that, the economy is booming. However, there are real and present dangers of a sharp reversal of our fortunes which will only be avoided at least in part by genuinely prudent, wise political leadership.
Prof Seamus Coffey, economist, University College Cork, chair Irish Fiscal Advisory Council
Rowena Dwyer, Manager Policy, Planning & Govt. Relations, Enterprise Ireland
Pearse Doherty TD, Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Finance
Patrick Lenain, Assistant Director OECD
Moderator: Ingrid Miley, Industry & Employment correspondent, RTE
FRIDAY JULY 26TH
11.00 AM: DOGGED BY POPULISM AND GROWING DISILLUSIONMENT, IF LIBERAL DEMOCRACY IS TO BE SAVED, NEW SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL THINKING IS URGENTLY REQUIRED
The past few years have seen the publication of several major works on democracy in crisis or even more dramatically on the end of democracy. There can be little doubt that democracy appears to be facing its gravest crisis since the 1930s with apathy and populism-particularly of the far right variety- the greatest manifestation of this crisis. We have looked on in horror as the gilets jaunes in France brought terror and destruction to their towns and cities for months and almost brought about the fall of the presidency of Emmanuel Macron. The justification was that they had been betrayed and neglected by the political system and could no longer make ends meet. In that same country, four in ten voters declared that they had no interest in the European elections and there were as many who voted for the far right party of Marine Le Pen, the National Rally, as did for Macron’s centrist party, La Republique En Marche. Most countries in the EU, even Germany, have seen the rise of the extreme right and in the East, countries such as Hungary and Poland, which were happy to join the EU two decades ago for protection against Russia, are pursuing policies totally at odds with the values of the Union to which they now belong. Encouraging in the background the growth of nationalism and “illiberalism” are Presidents Trump and Putin who obviously consider the EU as an adversary and the latter is even prepared to resort to cyber crime to interfere with the democratic process in other jurisdictions. Politicians themselves are seen to account for some of the apathy and disillusion. In this country, even though this has not so far manifested itself that much at the polls or in the growth of extreme politics, there is a large percentage of the electorate who, according to poll after poll, have lost faith in politics and politicians. It would take little, more immigration perhaps, or economic hardships to upset the status quo. Better politics, more genuine and honest dialogue with the citizens, fairer societies and better governance including more transparency and accountability would appear to be the best way in which our democratic system and values can be safeguarded.
Dr Aidan Regan, Asst Professor at School of Politics & International Relations UCD and Director of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at Dublin European Institute (UCD)
Dr Mary Daly, Prof Emeritus of History UCD, former president Royal Irish Academy
Judge Mary Laffoy, Chair, Citizens’ Assembly, former judge of the High Court and Supreme Court
Moderator: Dr Theresa Reidy, Dept of Government, University College, Cork
2.30 PM: In Memory of the Glenties fiddler, Vincent Campbell
Celebration of Donegal’s great traditional music presented by writer and fiddler Caoimhin MacAoidh with Jimmy and Peter Campbell (fiddle) Daire Gallagher (fiddle), Martin Crossin (uileann pipes), Tara Conaghan (fiddle) and Martin McGinley (fiddle)
4.00 PM: A PUBLIC INTERVIEW WITH AN TAOISEACH, DR LEO VARADKAR TD With Pat Leahy, Political Editor of The Irish Times
8.30 PM: WHAT KIND OF GOVERNMENT DOES IRELAND NEED? WILL THE UPCOMING GENERAL ELECTION PROVIDE IT?
The world is volatile and changing at a rapid pace. More than at any other time, the unravelling of the post-World War order, the steady advance of climate change, the disruptive power of digitisation together with huge domestic challenges in our health service, homelessness and inequality with a steadily growing population will test the capacity of our political system, government and public administration. Will they have the skills and capacity required to navigate these dangerous waters. And we have Brexit the effects of which will be felt for years to come. And we have Northern Ireland and the need to reassure its population that necessary cooperation represents opportunity for all our people and not a threat. Never before was there such a need for strong, united leadership at the helm choosing its crew on the basis of ability and skills-not on the basis of political expediency. We need an open, accountable and competent public administration in which achievement is recognised and failure penalised. As we look on in horror at what is happening elsewhere, we in Ireland can take nothing for granted. We have witnessed in the recent past the failures of governance in our vital national institutions and poor government decisions that contributed in no small way to the catastrophic economic crash just over ten years ago, the consequences of which are still with us. So what kind of political leadership and government do we need to cope with these deeply unsettling external threats and to successfully tackle our daunting domestic challenges? In the immediate aftermath of the crash of 2007-8 we were promised a “new way of doing politics”, but when we look around today we seem to be back to the same old ways. Above all, we require wise government with a programme that faces all the challenges confronting this small island in a very difficult environment and which is determined not to give in to narrow electoral considerations that are not in the national interest.
Conor Brady, writer and commentator. Former Editor The Irish Times
Dr Theresa Reidy, Dept of Government, University College Cork
Pat Leahy, Political Editor Irish Times
Moderator: Mary Regan, RTE Political Reporter, former Political Editor UTV and Irish Examiner