2018 Programme

 38th Annual MacGill Summer School & Arts Week

Sunday July 22nd  –  Friday July 27th, 2018

THE FUTURE OF IRELAND IN A NEW EUROPE:

THE CHALLENGES AHEAD?

SUNDAY JULY 22nd

4.00 pm:     SHOWING OF THE DOCUMENTARY, IN THE NAME OF PEACE: JOHN HUME IN AMERICA

Those of us fortunate enough to have known John Hume when he was at the zenith of his physical and mental powers will realise how sad it was that the Derry man was absent from the recent events in Belfast to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

This great Irishman and great European was not only one of the co-signatories of the Agreement. He was, as the present leader of the SDLP, Colum Eastwood, pointed out in a recent article in The Irish Times, not just the architect or the builder of the Agreement. He was both. We are fortunate to have this afternoon the excellent documentary, recently made by Maurice Fitzpatrick, which shows vividly one of the many elements of John’s work for peace in Northern Ireland but which turned out to be an essential part of the long tortuous journey towards that Friday in April 1998.

The documentary will be introduced by its producer Maurice Fitzpatrick.

Later in the evening, the 18th Annual John Hume Lecture will be delivered by former Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern, one of the key players who dragged and shoved the Agreement over the line.

 

8.00 pm:    OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE 38TH MACGILL SUMMER SCHOOL

by

H.E. Mr Stéphane Crouzat, Ambassador of France to Ireland

 

8.30 pm:    18TH ANNUAL JOHN HUME LECTURE

to be delivered by

Bertie Ahern, former Taoiseach, former leader, Fianna Fáil

followed by
Recital

Much loved songs and arias with

Soprano, Ann Jennings and mezzo-soprano Mairead Ní Bhloscaidh

Accompanist: Gerard Bradley

 

 

MONDAY JULY 23rd:  THE FUTURE OF IRELAND IN EUROPE

10.00 am:  BEYOND BREXIT: IRELAND IN EUROPE – THE FUTURE SCENARIO? 

Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Affairs

followed by

Pat Cox, former President, European Parliament
Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), formerly Director of the Small Firms Association   

        followed by
   OPEN FORUM

 

2.00 pm:   UNDER ATTACK, THE VALUES OF THE EUROPEAN UNION ARE MORE CRUCIAL THAN EVER BEFORE? 

When the merits and demerits of the European Union are being discussed, whether in election or referendum campaigns or in day-to-day discourse, it is seldom that the Union’s values are referred to. And yet, in today’s world of dictatorships and authoritarianism, corruption and disinformation in many parts of the world, little reference to the Union’s record in human rights and defence of freedom and liberal democracy is heard. Of course, there is much to criticise in the European Union – building a united Europe was never going to be easy but this Europe was born in a part of the world that gave birth to ancient Greek philosophy, Roman legal structures, Jewish-Christian thinking and, of course, French philosophy which gave us the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. As the French president, Emmanuel Macron has said: “…… what constructs and forges our profound identity, this balance of values, this relation with freedom, human rights and justice cannot be found anywhere on the planet.” This Europe, in which 500 million citizens live and enjoy pluralist democracy, individual and minority rights, respect for cultural diversity and international solidarity – including humanitarian aid and peaceful co-existence – is now threatened from within and without by extremist ideologies, aggressive regimes, discrimination and rejection of democracy itself. The need for a strong Europe to defend individual freedom, human dignity and equal rights has never been greater.

Aziliz Gouez, Analyst, French and European politics, former speechwriter for President Higgins
Dr Brendan Halligan, founder and President of Institute of International and European Affairs, former member of Seanad Éireann
Professor John O’Brennan, Professor of European Integration, Maynooth University

Moderator:  Tim O’Connor, Former Senior Diplomat of the Irish Foreign Service, former Secretary General to the President of Ireland

       

4.00 pm:   WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THESE ISLANDS AND BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH?

The relationships between Ireland and Britain, centuries old and complex, have been the most eventful, difficult and tense of any two nations in Europe or indeed of anywhere in the world. It is only in the past few decades that those relationships have finally stabilised and matured as Britain and Ireland found numerous areas of common interest and agreement within the overall community of the European Union. Even the seemingly intractable problem of Northern Ireland appeared to enter a new phase of peace and cooperation with the hammering out, after years of painstaking negotiations under the aegis of the EU and the US, the Good Friday Agreement. A new era of peaceful, mutually beneficial relationships among political parties in Northern Ireland, between Northern Ireland and the Republic and, of course, between Britain and Ireland. Then, in June 2016, the people of the UK, with the exception of Northern Ireland and Scotland, voted to leave the European Union and this, allied to the collapse of the power-sharing Executive in Belfast has created a serious destabilising of the political situation in the North. The threat to the Good Friday Agreement in particular, has also resulted in a serious deterioration of the relationships between London and Dublin. Whatever emerges from the EU/UK negotiations, the decision of the UK to leave the EU will have largely negative economic and social consequences for Ireland North and South – and, indeed, possibly for the UK itself, and fundamentally change the relationships between the UK and its nearest neighbour. In this uncertain environment new thinking is needed to offset the risks involved.

Claire Hanna, MLA, SDLP
Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust UK
Jennifer McKeever, President of Derry Chamber of Commerce
Richard Pym CBE
, Chair Allied Irish Bank, former Vice-President British Bankers Association
Senator Ian Marshall, former President, Ulster Farmers’ Union

Moderator: Dáithí Ó Ceallaigh, former Irish Ambassador to UK

 

8.30 pm:   SQUARING THE BREXIT CIRCLE: IF THE UK IS OUTSIDE THE CUSTOMS UNION AND THE SINGLE MARKET, HOW CAN WE AVOID RETURNING TO BORDERS OF THE PAST?

Many words have been spoken and written since the full implications of the result of the British referendum on future relations between the UK and this country became clear two years ago. The debate since then in relation to the “Irish Question” has continued unabated and recent events to mark the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement have added to the intensity of that debate veering between hope and despair. One thing has become clear regarding the reinstallation of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic: while the negotiations are still unfolding at time of writing, the British position i.e. exiting from the customs union and the single market whilst at the same time having no border on the island of Ireland, has been deemed to be unrealistic and unacceptable. On the other hand, as the Irish government has argued throughout, supported by the other members of the EU, the reintroduction of any border would be equally unacceptable and would mean, among other things, the scrapping of an international treaty which is the Good Friday Agreement and perhaps the emergence of problems which we thought had been consigned to history. Negotiations continue but avoiding a border on the island of Ireland will call for the most astute political leadership on all sides.

Simon Coveney TD, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs
Elisha McCallion MP, Sinn Féin MP for Foyle
Emma Little-Pengelly MP, Belfast South constituency, Shadow DUP spokesperson on Equality, Justice and International Trade
Micheál Martin TD, Leader of Fianna Fáil

Moderator:  Dr Don Thornhill, Chairperson, Legal Services Regulatory Authority, former Sec.Gen Department of Education

 

TUESDAY JULY 24th: BUILDING A STRONGER, MORE COHESIVE EUROPE IN A TURBULENT WORLD

11.00 am:  MAKING EUROPE MORE SECURE HAS TO BE A PRIORITY FOR ALL ITS CITIZENS

For the European Union, security has become one of the greatest challenges faced by its members. Several members have suffered horrific attacks on their citizens – France, Spain, Belgium, Germany, the UK – and appear to be particularly vulnerable to terrorist activities. However, the nature of this modern-day war means that no country or its citizens can feel secure and such is the mobile and adaptable nature of this terrorism that close co-operation between the security forces of member states is essential. With this in mind, the EU has set up the Security Union under Commissioner Sir Julian King who addressed the MacGill School last year. Of concern also to the Security Union and to all members is the new kind of ‘war’ which uses the reach and power of information technology. This cyber war, which can disrupt the total functioning of an organisation or even stop the whole apparatus of an entire country or even pervert its democratic institutions, has frightening implications for societies everywhere. And, of course, in a turbulent world environment, there are the threats to Europe’s borders to the east with countries such as Finland and the Baltic States uneasy and concerned by what they see as the belligerence of Russia along their borders. Ireland has been able to avoid much of the commitment being requested to play its part in the defence of Europe on the basis of its declared neutrality. However, being neutral in today’s world is becoming very difficult. As full members of the EU, is it time that we place this question higher on our national agenda and in a modern day context?

Professor Ben Tonra, Jean Monnet Prof of European Foreign, Security & Defence Policy, University College, Dublin
Mairead McGuinness MEP, Vice-President, European Parliament
Jack Chambers TD, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Defence

Moderator:  Ruth Deasy, former head of press and media for the European Commission in Ireland

 

2.00 pm: Memories of DANCING AT LUGHNASA

A walk to the cottage of Brian Friel’s “five brave Glenties women”

 

4.00 pm:   THE EUROPE AS ENVISAGED BY EMMANUEL MACRON AND IRELAND’S PLACE WITHIN IT

Since his election as President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron has taken Europe by storm. Even before, during his extraordinary election campaign, he set out to show the French electorate that, far from being reluctant to be too much associated with an ailing and stagnant Europe which the UK had voted to leave, he was proud of the European project and would fight for its future, thereby rejecting totally the strident anti-Europe campaign of the National Front. Since then, Macron has delivered several ground-breaking speeches on what he sees as the EU’s failings but especially on its achievements and what he sees as necessary to its future which he judges to be crucially important to the future of democracy itself. He argues that, in its present state, Europe is too fragmented, too weak, too inefficient to be the power it could be in the world and that, if it continues as it is, it will fail and all the member states will fail. The member states large and small, he points out, are too weak on their own to have sovereignty in the areas of finance, the economy, immigration, foreign policy, the environment and defence and that it is only through the creation of a large “European sovereignty” shared by the populations of the member states in genuine democracy that they can be effective. Macron is a new vibrant optimistic voice in Europe. He is the first European leader in many decades to bring vision and purpose to an unsure and divided continent facing enormous challenges. For the President, the peoples of mainland Europe will have a European sovereignty or they will have no sovereignty. Macron has challenged the members of the European Union as never before.

Philippe Legrain, Senior Fellow LSE, former advisor to EU President, Jose Manuel Barroso
Pat Cox, former president of the European Parliament, former President European Movement International
Dr Daniel Schade, lecturer and researcher at the University of Magdeburg, deputy chairman, Project for Democratic Union

Moderator: Aziliz Gouez, Analyst, French and European politics, former speechwriter for President Higgins

 

8.30 pm:    OUR CORPORATE TAX SYSTEM MUST REFLECT OUR VALUES AND PUT AN END TO OUR REPUTATION AS A TAX HAVEN

Although it may be deemed legal, the current global corporate taxation regime is arguably highly immoral and Ireland has been to the fore in spotting and exploiting loopholes that enable corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying tax. Some years ago, Ireland was described as the “wild west” of the financial services industry with its creation of the “double Irish” enabling massive tax avoidance and the licence that allowed US corporations to build up an offshore cash pile of approximately €1 trillion. Much of the revenue that ends up being virtually tax-free by being channelled through Ireland is earned in other countries around the world.   Poorer countries in particular suffer from the loss of tax revenue on sales in their territories but, whether rich or poor, the accumulation of massive corporate wealth deprives sovereign states of income they need to fund their public services. According to a recent European Commission report, multinational companies have made such extensive use of this country to funnel royalties – a common way to shift profits and avoid tax – that these payments averaged 23% of the country’s annual gross domestic product between 2010 and 2015. Ireland argues that our corporate tax code meets the highest international standards of transparency but still the questions don’t go away. There are those who point out that interfering with tax receipts from multinational companies at a time when we also have Brexit and its fallout to deal with is hazardous to our economy.

Pearse Doherty TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance
Alison Wrynn, Economist, Ibec
Professor Jim Stewart, Trinity College, Dublin
Dr Martina Lawless, Associate Research Professor, ESRI

Moderator: Mary Rose Burke, CEO Dublin Chamber of Commerce

 

WEDNESDAY JULY 25th: REFORMING IRELAND TO FACE THE CHALLENGES AHEAD

11.00 am:  WHAT DOES THE CERVICAL CHECK DEBACLE TELL US ABOUT OUR GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY?

The Cervical Check debacle began when a courageous Vicky Phelan refused a demand by Clinical Pathology Laboratories to sign a confidentiality agreement as part of a settlement of her claim against this company for misreading her cervical smear test. It was due to her integrity and bravery that the country, and others directly affected, learned that 209 women diagnosed with cervical cancer had previously received false negative test results from Cervical Check. Of these, 162 were not told of the review findings, despite the HSE having a policy of open disclosure. Those affected have since struggled to get access to their own medical files. The head of the Scoping Inquiry, Dr Gabriel Scally, has had difficulty accessing certain material. Speaking to an Oireachtas committee, Vicky Phelan stated: “I’m not interested in revenge…I want accountability”.  This simple but relevant statement goes to the heart of one of the great failings of public life in this country which has been commented upon so often in this MacGill forum: we don’t do accountability in politics, the civil service, the HSE, An Garda Síochána, banking and in public life in general. We have had over the decades, reports, enquiries and tribunals which have lasted for years and cost a fortune – with recommendations for reform that never got implemented. Will it be different this time?  As Stephen Teap, whose wife, Irene, died after two undisclosed false negative screening results put it: “Everything will be in vain if there’s no fundamental change”.

Vicky Phelan, patient advocate
Stephen Teap, patient advocate
Margaret Murphy, patient advocate, World Health Organisation
Dr Eddie Molloy, Management Consultant

Moderator:   Susan Mitchell, Health Editor, Sunday Business Post

 

2.30 pm:   WILL THE UPCOMING GENERAL ELECTION PROVIDE US WITH THE GOVERNMENT AND GOVERNANCE WE NEED? 

We may not want an election but we probably need an election. Looking to the future of this country, its need to be a dynamic, forceful and reforming presence in Europe, and its requirement for modernisation of its institutions and infrastructure to cope with a changing and growing population, firm, sure and decisive governance is essential. It is certainly not the time for having to take account of every whim and every local interest that individual politicians might have and the national interest must take priority in all major policy areas such as the economy, climate change, health, education, policing, housing and water infrastructure to name but a few. It is to be hoped, then, by all right-thinking citizens that the result of the upcoming election does not lead to the political fragmentation produced by the last election and the dependence on a “supply and confidence” agreement for a government to function. Not all of the features of this arrangement have been negative and to witness politicians being able to work together to produce an all-party consensus on the future of the health service, for example, or to maintain bi-partisanship in the confronting of the problem of Brexit has been a welcome relief in the middle of all that sometimes passes for debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Whether or not the Irish electorate as a whole makes the connection between their vote and bringing into office a government that will bring competence, coherence, stability and effective leadership remains to be seen.

Stephen Collins, former Political Editor, Irish Times
Frank Flannery, former Director of Strategy, Fine Gael
Dearbhail McDonald, INM Group Business Editor
Mary Regan, Public Affairs Editor, Sunday Business Post

Moderator: TBA

 

4.oo pm:     THE 8TH AMENDMENT REFERENDUM – WHAT DOES IT SIGNIFY IN IRELAND NORTH AND SOUTH?

Was it the beginning of something new in our politics, or the end of a long road to repeal? On May 25, after a long and often divisive campaign, voters decided by an overwhelming majority to take the constitutional ban on abortion, inserted in 1983, out of the constitution. The decision was not unexpected. But the landslide margin of the win for repeal took the country by surprise. Even those who had campaigned for many years were taken aback by the scale of their victory. But does the referendum result signify the beginning of something new, or the end of a long process of social change in Ireland? Is it the final victory for those who pushed for contraception, women’s rights, divorce and gay rights, or has a new force been unleashed in Irish politics? If so, where does it go now – and how will it change Irish politics in the future? And what of the third of voters who voted to retain the eighth amendment? Who speaks for them now?

Olivia O’Leary, writer and broadcaster
Cora Sherlock, solicitor, pro-life campaigner
Pat Leahy, Political Editor, Irish Times
Amy Rose Harte, Communications Manager for the Together For Yes campaign

Moderator: Orlaith McBride, Director, Arts Council

                         

8.30 pm:    OUR HEALTH SYSTEM – IS THERE ANYONE WHO CAN MAKE IT FIT FOR PURPOSE?

As one of our contributors to this session, Prof Frank Keane, has said in the recent past: ” I believe that many of our national problems are compounded by poor politics, a faltering administration and vested and professional interests.” The problem in the health service is certainly not due to lack of funding; Ireland being one of the highest spenders on health in the OECD. Be that as it may, the headlines about the deficiencies of the service persist: “Portiuncula deaths due to serious failings…… Woman in Kerry waiting five years for a cataract operation……Hospital waiting lists exceed 700,000…..Record numbers on hospital trolleys…..Children waiting two years to see a child psychiatrist….Budget over-runs of €100 million by mid-year……” and so it goes on. The reputation of the HSE as a bastion of top-heavy administration and over-paid managers whilst those at the coalface struggle daily with insufficient resources does not go away. Furthermore, it has suffered from a seemingly endless list of body blows which must be sapping the morale of those caring professionals who try and deliver a safe, efficient service day in day out. Against this bleak background, there are grounds for very cautious optimism that our health service can be made fit for purpose. The Slaintecare Report, which uniquely has all-party support, sets out a vision and a 10-year implementation plan for a transformed health service. What is needed now is determined political leadership to face down vested interests and resistance to change as well as clear and determined action. Change is urgently required but it won’t be easy.

Susan Mitchell, Health Editor, Sunday Business Post
Professor Frank Keane, former President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Dr Colin Doherty, Consultant Neurologist, St James Hospital, National Clinical Lead for the Epilepsy Care Programme
Stephen Donnelly TD, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Health

Moderator:  Ruth Barrington, Chair of TREOIR, formerly Chief Executive of Molecular Medicine
Ireland (MMI),

 

THURSDAY JULY 26th: IRELAND IN A CHANGING AND UNCERTAIN WORLD

11.00 am   THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN IRELAND – WILL IT SURVIVE? SHOULD IT MATTER?

Recent events in Ireland have clearly shown that Irish society is changing almost beyond recognition. Those who grew up as recently as the final decades of the 20th century have difficulty sometimes in recognising the new, young Ireland, its beliefs, attitudes and patterns of behaviour. One of the most momentous changes is undoubtedly the role of the Catholic Church and religious practice in Ireland. Both are in sharp decline as is evidenced by the proportion of those who call themselves Catholic and who attend mass even on an occasional basis. There is a crisis of vocations to the priesthood, which very soon will make the celebration of church services difficult if not impossible thus changing the face of urban as well as rural Ireland. The Catholic Church’s once dominant and, it has to said, crucially important, role in the fields of education, health and social services is no more. The pastoral and moral role, which the Catholic Church has played in Irish society for centuries, has waned dramatically not least because of the many sexual abuse scandals revealed in recent years.  And there is the now pressing problem of the role of women in the Catholic Church, or the lack of it, with very little being done to rectify it. This wrong has been highlighted in our own country by people of the stature of Mary McAleese whose stance has been supported by the majority of women and men. The issue will not go away and will do further damage to the prospects of the Catholic Church’s very survival. Pope Francis will come next month to a place markedly different to that visited by one of his predecessors, John Paul II in 1979. And yet, there are places in our society where the Catholic Church still has a respected presence caring for the most vulnerable in our society; refugees, trafficked women and children, homeless families, those from deprived environments trapped in drug addiction. Is there a role for such a church in our society or is God dead and religion almost extinct?

Fr Kevin Hegarty, Editor, INTERCOM 1991-94, member of Catholic Priests’ Association, curate in Co Mayo
Professor Gina Menzies, theologian, lecturer in Bioethics at Royal College of Surgeons
Gerry O’Hanlon SJ, social theologian, author of many books including A New Vision for the Catholic Church 

Moderator: Shona Murray, special correspondent at Independent News and Media

 

2.30 pm:  Time for Reflection

A MUSICAL INTERLUDE with pianist, James O’Malley

 

4.00 pm    IT’S BOOM AND BLOOM AGAIN, BUT OUR INDUSTRIAL POLICY LEAVES US VULNERABLE IN A TURBULENT WORLD?

Earlier in the week we will have discussed the values that underpin this country’s role in creating generous tax regimes that enable multinational corporations make huge profits at the expense of sovereign states. It has to be stated that, initiated by Lemass and Whitaker in the 1960s as a key strategy to lift the Irish economy out of stagnation and despair, our Foreign Direct Investment policies allied to our joining the EEC, have brought us very large benefits. Apart from financial benefits, these industries have raised the standard of management, provided the breeding ground for indigenous entrepreneurs and have brought other economic and social benefits as well as creating a well-paid, well-skilled workforce. However, 40% of this State’s corporate tax revenue comes from just six multinationals which represents a risk when, for these companies, the world is their oyster and when there are increasing efforts to change the tax rules that have allowed these companies to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. There is also a more uncertain world environment especially with President Trump threatening to bring US companies home and, as well, running the risk of triggering an economic war that could have consequences everywhere. The fact of the matter is that Ireland has perhaps focussed too much on foreign direct investment rather than on growing in parallel a strong, export-orientated, research-driven domestic industrial policy. These are different times and to be reliant on other countries’ industrial policies and on the strategies of company boards sitting in Silicon Valley, Beijing or New Delhi is foolhardy. We have had successes in building indigenous companies, and small and medium enterprises are an important part of the economic landscape. But compared to other European countries such as Finland and Denmark, we are not doing enough to invest in the domestic sector, especially in research and development so that it can compete with the best.

Shay Garvey, founding partner, Frontline Ventures, chair, Science Gallery, chair, Genio
Dr Alan Ahearne, Prof of Economics and Director of Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway
Olivia Buckley, Director of Communications, Irish Taxation Institute

Moderator: Ingrid Miley, Industrial and Employment Correspondent, RTÉ

 

8.30 pm:   INFRASTRUCTURE INCLUDING HOUSING IS KEY BUT WILL THE PLANNING FRAMEWORK 2040 BE IMPLEMENTED?

The government recently launched a very impressive set of long-range plans for the country – Project Ireland 2040: Building Ireland’s Future and National Development Plan 2018-2027. These plans are comprehensive and, in many respects, visionary, reflecting precisely the kind of long term thinking that has been missing in our political system for years. There were, of course, quite grandiose hopes with The National Spatial Strategy for Ireland document launched in 2002 but nothing in it was implemented until it was abandoned in 2013. It is regrettable that the political controversy surrounding the launch of Project Ireland 2040, with allegations of inappropriate politicisation of the launch by the Strategic Communications Unit diverted public attention from the substance of these important and ambitious plans. Ten “Strategic Outcomes” are set out; Compact Growth, Enhanced Regional Accessibility, Strengthened Rural Economies, Sustainable Mobility (Public Transport), A Strong Economy supported by Enterprise, Innovation & Skills, High Quality International Connectivity, Enhanced Amenity & Heritage, A Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Society, Management of Water and other Environmental Resources, Access to Quality Childcare, Education & Health Services. These plans are ambitious and address most of the critical infrastructural challenges that already face the country and are rapidly becoming more acute as the population continues to grow rapidly and to grow older. Already, public infrastructure is not keeping pace with the level of growth and changing national demographics, and services such as water, broadband, health and housing are already in crisis. We have a long history of national plans that remain just that.

Darragh O’Brien TD, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Housing, Planning and Local Government
Moira Murrell, Chief Executive, Kerry County Council
Dr Eoin O’Neill, Associate Professor in Environmental Policy at UCD
Dr Sadhbh O Neill, School of Politics and International Relations UCD, Green Party

Moderator: Carole Pollard, former President, Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland

 

FRIDAY, JULY 27th: INTO THE FUTURE

 

THE DUBLIN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ECONOMIC SESSION

11.00 am   CAN WE MAINTAIN STRONG GROWTH AND A HEALTHY ECONOMY? WHAT ARE THE RISKS AND HOW TO CONFRONT THEM?

After five years of economic growth and it is forecasted that there is more to come, we are seen as the “poster boy” of Europe, outperforming most of the member states of the European Union and way ahead of those which, like ourselves, suffered badly from the economic crash of 2008. The State’s finances have been stabilised and a budget surplus is within reach. We are almost back to full employment, and consumer spending on cars, foreign holidays and such luxuries is surging; happy days and a far cry from the doom and gloom of only a few years ago. While this spectacular success is to be celebrated, it is imperative that we do not get carried away because we have been here before and blown it. Ominously, in its recent report on Ireland, the OECD warned of overheating in our economy and raised the prospect of “another property bubble”. And, of course, there is concern about other risks, internal and external such as loss of competitiveness and interest rate increases which would add to our already large national debt. As we are only too aware, economies the world over in the 20th and 21st centuries have suffered the drama of “boom and bust” cycles. A fundamental challenge, therefore, is: how to achieve a degree of stability and sustainability in the management of our economy. While Minister Paschal Donohue promises to ” ….continue to focus on prudent management of the economy and on implementing competitiveness-oriented policies” there is an election on the horizon with the usual bidding by all parties for the electorate’s votes with offers of tax reductions, increase of social welfare payments and other “goodies” that, if we are to build our infrastructure and make our public services fit for purpose, we really cannot afford.

Dr Philip Lane, Governor of Central Bank
Fiona Muldoon, Group Chief Executive, FBD
Danny McCoy, Chief Executive, IBEC

Moderator: Sean Whelan, Economics Editor, RTÉ

 

2.30 pm:   DARK FORCES ARE UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY – HOW CAN IT BE SAVED?

Only now is it becoming clear that the web brings as many downsides as benefits and that the downsides may, in fact, outweigh the benefits. All of this was brought home by the shady activities of Cambridge Analytica who were able to access tens of millions of Facebook profiles and use these to target people with personalised political advertisements. Russian agencies have been able to intervene in a number of elections and notably in the American and French Presidential elections in support of right wing politicians, presumably to destabilise these democracies. Such activities threaten our right to freedom of thought and have significant ramifications for democracy itself and its functioning. The spread of fake news and hate speech not only is destructive of democracy but is a factor in the rise of violent urban crime and extremist groups with sometimes violent political objectives. The wonders of the Internet, it is true, are seemingly boundless, revolutionising every aspect of our personal and professional lives but at what cost? Young children can access hard porn and senseless violence on their mobile phones and they can be bullied to the extent of taking their own lives. In principle all is “hackable” and our voting decisions in elections manipulated. The ease of access, low cost, capacity to target individuals and global reach of the Internet empowers malign, anonymous forces to undermine our vital national institutions. In the face of this threat, traditional media are fighting an uphill battle to influence the battle for hearts and minds with the facts. All of this allied to a growing and widespread lack of respect for politicians, a lack of appreciation for democracy as we have known it and a widening chasm between those who have huge wealth and those who have little or nothing makes for a very dangerous world indeed.

Conor Brady, columnist, The Sunday Times, former editor, The Irish Times
Dr Jane Suiter, Associate Professor in Communications, Dublin City University
Professor Roy Greenslade, Emeritus Professor, City University, London, Media correspondent, The Guardian
Professor Mary Aiken, Cyberpsychologist, Adjunct Associate Professor, Geary Institute for Public Policy, UCD

Moderator: Joan Mulvihill, Centre Director for the Irish Centre for Cloud Computing and Commerce (IC4), DCU

 

4.30 pm:   Peter Robinson, former First Minister, Northern Ireland

Moderator: Tommie Gorman, Northern Ireland Editor, RTÉ

 

6.00 pm:  A Parting Glass

 

8.30 pm:   WOMEN IN IRISH PUBLIC LIFE: WHY ARE ORGANISATIONS SUCH AS THE MACGILL SCHOOL STILL TRAPPED IN A WORLD OF GENDER STEREOTYPES?

For millennia women have been treated badly, suffering all manner of cruelty and discrimination in practically every society around the world. This injustice was underpinned, and to a large degree continues to be, by the dominant world religions. In Ireland, this deeply ingrained bias is reflected, for example, in the shameful stories of mother and baby homes that have come to light in recent times or the marriage bar in the civil service that was only ended in 1973. While the lot of women has undoubtedly improved markedly since those days, for example, with the emblematic election of two female Presidents and landmark changes in the constitutional and legal provisions governing women’s reproductive rights, there is continuing widespread discrimination against women as evident today in their under-representation in all aspects of Irish life – government, politics, higher education, public administration, the arts, business and the churches. Why is it that practically all organisations are still trapped in a world of gender stereotypes and bias, implicit or intentional, against women? What needs to be done and by whom to exorcise this pervasive mind-set?

Sarah Carey, broadcaster and journalist
Professor Linda Connolly, Director, Social Sciences Institute, NUI Maynooth
Peter Cosgrove, diversity champion and member of the Steering Committee of the 30 per cent club, former director of CPL
Anne Roper, Documentary producer/director
Gerard Howlin, columnist and public affairs consultant

Moderator: Sheila Pratschke, Chair, The Arts Council

 

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