The contributions to the 2010 MacGill Summer School by so many informed and distinguished speakers, with such a range of knowledge and experience and above all concern for the future well-being of this country impressed many. They convinced us that the proceedings in Glenties in July of this year should not be allowed to drift away but should be drawn together to form some kind of road map showing measures that might help get us out of the very deep crisis in which we find ourselves and, at the same time, would offer vision and hope. As the following pages clearly show, the contributors who are invited to MacGill are drawn from a very broad canvas and are men and women, not only who analyse socio/economic and political life in Ireland but who are imbued with a sense of purpose, commitment and vision—qualities we now need in huge quantities, particularly in our political institutions.
We have published the proceedings of MacGill over the past number of years, including those of 2009 in a tome entitled: IRELAND’S ECONOMIC CRISIS—TIME TO ACT. However, one year on, that crisis had deepened and, indeed, has deepened yet further since July when the pronouncements which are contained in edited form in this Report were made. It was felt, therefore, that some kind of “manifesto” rather than a collection of essays was required which would highlight not only the various contributing factors that have brought what appeared to be a thriving economy to disaster, and try and learn from them, but also make some attempt to propose reforms which might influence our policy makers, help chart a road to recovery and prevent another such crisis happening again.
There is no point now in lamenting what is past—except to draw lessons from it and make resolutions and take preventive action. Anger, pity, frustration and desire for revenge are understandable but are no substitute for getting up and confronting with determination and courage the huge challenge which this small nation faces. We have, in a most brutal way, come out of an extraordinary period of ‘boom and bloom’ in which, it has to be said, most people participated in some way, and entered once again one of ‘doom and gloom’. But we cannot succumb to darkness and defeat. The country may be economically on its knees but it still has much wealth, not least of which are its resilient, intelligent and well educated people including the youngest population in the EU, its vibrant culture—literature, music, drama and language—and its thousands of years of history that have marked not only its own landscape but that of many other countries besides. It is reputed for its natural beauty with a fertile soil and, on every side, magnificent and resource-filled seas which are practically unexploited. Even our economy, which has been wrecked by the amost criminal irresponsibility of our banks and the awesome incompetence of our institutions, still has its strengths. We have, thanks to our membership of the European Union and, it also has to be said, our own so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’, a reasonably good and modernised infrastructure. And we are still trading—exporting to the four corners of the earth. We are still here. What the country needs, though, now more than ever, is leadership, vision, the right skills and , as one of the contributors in this publication says, honest hard work—something we may have pushed aside in the heady days of the past decade as people from other lands flowed into the place, anxious, willing and able to work.