Who runs Ireland?

The 50 people - in public service, business and law - who run the Republic

Sat, Feb 8, 2014, 01:00

Chief executive, National Treasury Management Agency
Corrigan is responsible for managing Ireland’s national debt. He was a key adviser to the Government on our re-entry to capital markets on exiting the EU-ECB-IMF bailout at the end of last year. Corrigan succeeded Michael Somers in December 2009, having joined the agency 18 years earlier. He was initially responsible for managing the domestic component of our national debt before helping to establish the National Pensions Reserve Fund in 2001. He earned a salary of €416,500 in 2012 and has waived his bonus for the past four years. He is due to step down in December. Ciaran Hancock

Chief executive, IDA Ireland
O’Leary took up the job at the end of 2007. In the economic maelstrom of the following years the Government turned to his agency to rebalance the economy back towards exports. The IDA delivered, and last year helped to attract 13,000 new jobs to Ireland. Mild-mannered O’Leary regularly breaks bread with senior figures at the world’s biggest companies. If the Government wants to send a message to a US boardroom, or vice versa, O’Leary is the obvious intermediary. Last month he announced his intention to step down. Mark Paul

Brendan mcdonaghBRENDAN McDONAGH
Chief executive, National Asset Management Agency
Nama is regarded as the biggest property-management group in the world. McDonagh was appointed in late 2009, just before Nama was formally established as a vehicle to take toxic loans off the balance sheets of Irish-owned banks. Its remit is about to be widened as it takes on the rump of loans, later this year, that are not sold by the special liquidators of Irish Bank Resolution Corporation. Nama is due to wind down in 2020; McDonagh is considered a lead contender to replace John Corrigan as chief executive of the National Management Treasury Agency, later this year. McDonagh earned €365,500 in 2012, waiving his bonus. Ciaran Hancock

Chairman, National Asset Management Agency
Daly resigned as a public-interest director of Anglo Irish Bank in late 2009 to become the first chairman of Nama. Has spent much of this year defending it against claims by certain debtors that agency officials leaked information about them. Daly joined Revenue in 1963 and became its chairman in 2002. He retired from that role in 2008, when he chaired the Commission on Taxation, set up to review the structure and efficiency of the tax system. Daly earned €150,000 as chairman of Nama in 2012. Ciaran Hancock


Chief executive, Bank of Ireland
The only senior banking executive to avoid the purge of the top ranks in Irish banks after the 2008 financial crash, Zambia-born Boucher enjoyed a fruitful 2013 by repaying the State for the contingent capital notes and preference shares it held. The Government’s stake was also reduced to just below 14 per cent. This year should see Bank of Ireland return to the black. Boucher has announced plans to provide €33 billion in “new” lending here by 2017. He remains the best-paid Irish banker, with total remuneration of €843,000 in 2012. Ciaran Hancock

Chief executive, Allied Irish Bank
Became president of the Irish Banking Federation at the start of this year to add to his role as chief executive of AIB. Duffy returned to Ireland in 2011 to head AIB after a long career in senior banking roles in the US, Europe and Asia. Duffy has spoken bullishly of returning AIB to profit, securing external investment and sorting out the bank’s mortgage arrears within two years. AIB took a big step towards resolving its home-loan arrears problem this week with the launch of a split mortgage that will offer debt write-offs to selected customers. Ciaran Hancock


Chief Justice, Supreme Court
The Chief Justice is the most senior judge in the State and the head of one of its most powerful institutions. Decisions of the highest court can have a profound impact on Irish society; rulings it made decades ago remain live today. Denham, the daughter of the former Irish Times editor Douglas Gageby, is the first woman to hold the position, and was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court when she joined it, in 1992. At a time of tension between the executive and the judiciary, she has a reputation for shrewd diplomacy and has been key to major reforms in the courts. Ruadhan MacCormaic

Attorney general
She has a low public profile, but Whelan is one of Ireland’s most powerful women. No piece of legislation goes to Cabinet without the approval or input of the legal adviser to the Government, giving her a span of influence wider than that of most Ministers. It was on the advice of Whelan, a senior counsel with ties to the Labour Party, that the Government decided to hold a referendum on the fiscal treaty, and her office was closely involved in drafting the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill, which she steered through the Council of State. Ruadhan MacCormaic

claire loftusCLAIRE LOFTUS
Director of Public Prosecutions
The DPP enforces Ireland’s criminal law in the courts. She decides whether or not to prosecute, and on what charges, putting her in a key position of influence within the legal system and the wider State apparatus. Her office also advises An Garda Síochána. Loftus qualified as a solicitor in 1992 and became DPP in 2011. She is the first woman and the first solicitor to hold the position. Ruadhan MacCormaic

President of the High Court
The High Court has become bigger and busier over recent years. As its most senior judge, Kearns manages the court and chooses which judges handles each case list. He also hears some of the court’s most sensitive and high-profile cases. The president of the High Court sits on the Council of State and is the person to substitute for the Chief Justice on the Presidential Commission, the body that takes over the functions of the President when the office is vacant or the head of State is unavailable. Ruadhan MacCormaic


Commissioner, An Garda Siochána
Callinan is responsible for a 13,000-strong force charged with preventing and detecting crime, and preventing and gathering intelligence about terror threats, a function carried out by dedicated security services in other parts of the world. As the accounting officer of the Garda he is also responsible for the allocation of its budget. He is under pressure to secure convictions arising from some high-profile white-collar alleged offences dating back to the collapse of the economy. He has been tested in public recently when quizzed by the Public Accounts Committee on the penalty-points controversy. With the Garda Ombudsman now investigating the issue, and relations between it and the force at a low, the outcome of the debacle may define his term in office. Conor Lally

Chief of Staff, Defence Forces
Appointed last August, O’Boyle is head of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, with a combined strength of about 9,500. He commands forces whose highest-profile work is UN peacekeeping, with Irish troops currently in Syria on what is regarded as one of its highest-risk missions in many years. But its work aiding the civil power is also significant, and in a time of natural disaster he would rapidly jump up the list of Ireland’s most powerful and significant figures. He is regarded by many as very articulate and perfectly skilled to raise the profile of the Defence Forces, through the media, as it competes for reduced resources. Conor Lally




The top 50: how we came up with this list


This top 50 list of Who Runs Ireland was devised by a panel of ‘Irish Times’ journalists with expertise in a variety of fields, including Political News Editor Arthur Beesley, Legal Affairs Correspondent Ruadhán Mac Cormaic, Washington Correspondent Simon Carswell and Features Editor Conor Goodman.

We are a small country with an open economy, and the presence on the list of multinational employers, an officer of the Vatican and two foreign politicians reflects the strength of these external influences.
But almost everybody on the list – we have chosen to name individuals rather than institutions – works in the Republic of Ireland. We have limited it to the Republic, as the complex power-sharing institutions of Northern Ireland would require a separate list.

We have selected people who make big decisions that affect our lives – Ministers, for example – or, as advisers and civil servants, play a key role in those decisions.

Holders of the main posts in the judiciary and legal system feature heavily, due in many cases to their constitutional roles. People with major financial muscle or who command significant people power, such as union leaders , also feature. 


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