I’m just back from Glenties, in Donegal. I spent a few days at the MacGill Summer School. The School is an annual event, and has been running since 1981. If you wish, you can watch every session on the Donegal County Council website here. I saw most of the sessions form the Wednesday evening to the last session on Friday. MacGill drew a certain amount of criticism this year. One letter in the Examiner described it “nothing more than a ‘talking shop’ or junket for ‘has beens’ or ‘wannabes’. It offers nothing constructive to help solve problems of this country.” In a piece in the business section of the Irish Times Caroline Madden suggests that for the cynical it might be “a talking shop where navel-gazing represents the chief activity”. I don’t altogether agree.
Part of having an effective country is being able to talk about what is going on. At MacGill what I see is a series of talks, mostly on topics of some general interest, with at least one or two speakers who are serious experts on the topic, and one or two others who are knowledgeable about the topic. Each session concluded with a series of questions from the floor, and responses from the panel.
Lets look at one example. The first session I went to was on the economy – How to manage the recovery now, and into the future? The speakers included two economists, Stephen Kinsella, an academic from UL, and Rossa White, the chief economist at NTMA; Patricia King, the new general secretary of ICTU; Anne O’Leary, the CEO of Vodafone Ireland. Sean Whelan, who is the economics editor in RTE chaired it.