Skills of Ireland's business diaspora not being utilised, Dublin Chamber of Commerce told

Fri, Oct 12, 2012, 01:00

THE SKILLS of Ireland’s business diaspora are not being used on State bodies, despite pledges by the Government to harness overseas expertise, leading businessman Niall FitzGerald told the Dublin Chamber of Commerce annual dinner last night.

“It has been said so many times that world-beating businesses are stocked with thoughtful, smart and creative Irish talent. They all retain a strong emotional attachment to Ireland. They want to help, but we do not make it easy,” said Mr FitzGerald, a former chairman and chief executive of Unilever.

“There is, I understand, an expressed intent to have 25 per cent of Irish State boards populated from outside. But there is little sign of it happening,” he said.

“Several leading international business people have offered their services pro bono but are still waiting for the call.”

The former chairman of Reuters, who is one of Ireland’s most successful business people, said Irish people had the “entrepreneurial zeal, nimbleness and energy” to help spark economic recovery.

But he had a caveat – the taint of the banking crisis and property excesses. “There remains an image of a small self-serving clique who looked after themselves at the expense of others.”

Some lessons of the crisis were not being applied with the necessary urgency, he added. These include the strengthening of the parliamentary system, the empowering of financial regulators to impose sanctions on banks that breach the rules and greater accountability in public life. The Government should not be involved in running banks or commercial companies, he stressed.

Mr Fitzgerald apologised to attendees if his address “sounded like a lecture” – his remarks were “the honest, if sometimes uncomfortable, observations of someone who cares deeply about Ireland”, he said.

“The earlier version of the Celtic Tiger pranced about on a bed of sand. Tiger Óg must have a firmer footing to sustain opportunity and prosperity for generations to come.”

The business world has a responsibility beyond the bottom line, he concluded. “You cannot sustain a successful business in a broken society.”

In a more optimistic speech, the president of the Chamber, Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney, described this week’s job creation news from Kerry Group and Paddy Power as “two of the most exciting job announcements ever made by Irish companies”.