What Happens In Glenties…


From top: The Highland Hotel, Glenties, County Donegal; Dan Boyle

This week sees the holding of MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co. Donegal. It maintains its, largely self generated, reputation as the summer school that receives the most media attention.

There is a busman’s holiday aspect to the school. Coming immediately upon the Dáil going into recess, it seeks to bring together the great and the good to float new ideas, and pontificate on the state of the nation.

For some reason this newly created sense of innovation and passion isn’t possible to be evoked in our national parliament.

The inputs are treated with the upmost seriousness. The serious business of school, though, lies in its social activities. The long evenings at the Highland Hotel are where the antipathies between politicians, and between politics and the media are put to one side. There’s nothing wrong with people enjoying themselves.

Many of the contributions are exercises in political kite flying. Some are attempts at self aggrandisement, to create a statesman-like profile needed for that next step on the ladder. Little of what is spoken there ends up in legislation or in policy changes.

It gives the impression that politics as usual is continuing . It creates copy for an ever desperate media.

Much of verbiage expounded is like how an English teacher of mine defined futility – like wasting your sweetness on the desert air.

Occasionally, quite occasionally, a germ of an idea takes hold which can justify the exercise.

I spoke twice at MacGill in 2009 and 2010. Both times on the banking situation. In 2009 I sat on a panel with Patrick Honohan, then professor of economics at Trinity, and Alan Dukes, who had been appointed a director to the board of the zombie bank, Anglo Irish.

I gave what I thought was a hard hitting speech. Much of what I hoped for, and expected, would never come to pass. There would be no prosecutions of those in the banking sector who had created the catastrophe.

No crime of economic treason would be created. The legislation that was passed, while an improvement, has been nothing like strong enough to avoid a reoccurance of the events of 2008.

Some of the things I said had an effect. I called for the end of the Buggins turn arrangement where the Secretary General of the Department of Finance assumed the position of Governor of the Central Bank

. I also called for the Financial Regulator to come from outside the State. It also was an opportunity to publicly outline the changes the Green Party wanted to see to the NAMA bill.

I told Eamon Ryan I was impressed with Patrick Honohan’s analysis and his prescription of what should follow. We met with him in Eamon’s ministerial office, where we continued to be impressed. Eamon spoke with Brian Lenihan, which set up a process that would eventually see Professor Honohan appointed as the next Governor of the Central Bank.

It was the right choice, even if he eventually bounced us into the Troika. That too was the right decision. Sometimes what happens in Glenties doesn’t stay in Glenties.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

Pic: Macgill Summer School

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41 thoughts on “What Happens In Glenties…

  1. bisted

    …there has to be a book in these revelations…’The Banking Crisis and My Part in it’ (abridged)

  2. Eamonn Moran

    Dan looking back are you now glad the green party enabled the setting up of NAMA in the NAMA bill.
    How did you feel when they began selling wholesale to vulture funds at massive discounts and that the vultures profits would be tax free?

    1. Dan Boyle

      The tax liability of vulture funds is due to flaws within company and charity legislation. There has been six years in two subsequent governments to make such change.

      1. mildred st. meadowlark

        Ah, but who got the ball rolling?

        It’s a failure on the part of our current governments that they’ve done nothing (hardly surprising, really) but stop shafting the blame to them. You have to accept a certain amount of accountability for the decisions made while the greens were in government.

        1. Dan Boyle

          I do, but not on what often has been attributed to us. The overall tenor of what happened would have occurred whoever was in government. There were during our period in government bad decisions that added needlessly to the overall cost. The major decisions wouldn’t have been avoided, but their their application did result in excessive cost. For instance there was no zero cost option for Anglo Irish but the option chosen was one of the most costly.

  3. Anomanomanom

    Dan I normally like your little pieces but what in God’s name was that about. The start and middle were pointless since it was just really about letting us know you spoke about what should have happened and that you think the trokia was the right move.

    1. Dan Boyle

      I pick a subject. I try to set a context. I relate my experience of it. It doesn’t always work. No one wanted the Trojka. Honohan made a choice that politcally wouldn’t have been made.

  4. Ollie

    How the fupp was the Trioka the right decision?
    What would have happened if we decided to let Anglo bank fail?

    1. DubLoony

      The troika was needed because the state had only a few months money left. Mass unemployment & companies going bust meant tax take was down severely while social welfare bill sky rocketed.
      At the same time, government borrowing hit 14%, cutting us out of international lending .

      The only place we were going to get any money from was the Troika of IMF, EU & ECB. and that came with conditions.

      1. Ollie

        Dubloony, That doesn’t answer my question.

        Ireland can’t borrow and doesn’t.
        We stop repaying our loans and bring our deficit to zero.
        Then what?
        Eu wide banking failure?
        Now that would not have been let happen.

        1. mildred st. meadowlark

          Not for Ireland anyway. Germany or France though…

          Would they have let them away with it, as hard-hitters in the EU?

    2. Cian

      I’ve often wondered what would have happened had Lenihan’s banking guarantee on that fateful night only covered only the 5 high-street banks: BoI, AIB, Irish Life, Irish Nationwide and EBS. i.e. If he has excluded Anglo Irish Bank.

      I’d say that Anglo shared would have continued to plummet – and we would have saved billions. However, I’d also guess that everyone would have assumend that this happened because they weren’t included in the legislation (not because it was a Ponzi scheme) and the various losers would have sued the State for the lost billions.


      1. Dan Boyle

        It was the biggest mistake. The State would still have carried a huge liability for Anglo (its savers were already guaranteed) but elevating the bank to systemic status brought about an unnecessary liability of several billion.

  5. Gringo

    I get it, Dan. If you want a top job, go to Glenties and impress a bunch of drunken ex teachers with your amazing answers to all of lifes problems, before going on your two months holidays.Stay in your bubble, Dan, its a good one.

    1. Dan Boyle

      Glad that was clear to you. There are easier ways to organise conspiracies through.

      1. nellyb

        Jesus, Dan, really? Such poor comebacks after wealth of experience in politics? Aren’t debating skills the core competency for political profession? Almighty… Or it’s the writing that does not bring out the best of you?

        1. Dan Boyle

          They are the deserved comebacks. It doesn’t matter what I say to those who’ve already made their minds up. Any comment of mine is there to be jumped on. To such commenters anything I say is not going to be believed. I engage with people. I’m honest with people. If people take that engagement as my being incapable of being honest, then I will respond accordingly.

          1. Cian

            I, for one, am glad that you engage with us – it’s interesting to see your perspective in these articles – but also that you will join us afterwards in the debate and answer questions.

          2. jungleman

            Agreed. Very impressed with your willingness to get involved in the comments without stooping to the level many trolls on this site are looking for. Fair play, Dan.


    No, its was not the only choice though it was the only choice presented, how Ireland would be affected by the oncoming crash engineered by the IMF in advance. Ireland as a nation & EU member state would not have been allowed to fail in any case, but sure tell joe soap there will be soldiers at the atms, his wages won’t be paid & what are his options. The notion of the Irish central bank apparently regulating financial institutions is a fallacy, its overseen & ultimately run by the world bank.

    1. Ollie

      That’s my point Jimmy.
      If we told our lenders to f off we would have got a better deal, that’s a certainty.

  7. Ollie

    You, me, our children and grandchildren paid to rescue bankrupt private businesses aka banks.
    That was wrong

  8. Ollie

    Although a bankrupt country wouldn’t be able to fund ex TD pensions, so the Trioka was the right thing to do if you fall into that particular category.

    1. Dan Boyle

      That was the first item on the agenda of every meeting we ever went to. None of us ever had any other motivation…..

  9. dav

    With respect to any decisions that were made at that time – 1. it was panic mode and 2. their decisions were based on info supplied by irish banks – info that was inaccurate at best or at worse – false.
    This is why I maintain that every annual accounts supplied by and irish financial institution should have the opening line that the following financial statement should not be trusted.

    1. Ollie

      I don’t buy that Dav. We’ve only the word of bankers and TDs as to what information was available. People like Dan ” we did our best, it’s not our fault, it would have happened anyway”.
      We were all screwed over to save the Rich mates of TDS and bankers.

          1. Dan Boyle

            Thank you for thinking me so young. My pension is equivalent of dole plus rent allowance plus medical card. That said i’m glad I have it.

      1. dav

        Not trying to excuse them – they clearly didn’t do their best, they had the boards of the banks by the balls at the time and managed to let them get away with it. Our glorious senior civil servants were also found wanting..

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