Web Summit founder calls for action against corruption in Ireland

Paddy Cosgrave said he witnessed corruption on ‘massive scale’ at a young age

Paddy Cosgrave, who plans to encourage the chief executives of many of the world’s largest tech companies to co-sign a letter urging the Irish Government to pass anti-corruption legislation. Photograph: Eric Luke

Paddy Cosgrave, who plans to encourage the chief executives of many of the world’s largest tech companies to co-sign a letter urging the Irish Government to pass anti-corruption legislation. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave has urged the Government to take action against corruption and white-collar crime in Ireland.

He also said he was personally taking steps by encouraging the chief executives of many of the world’s largest tech companies to co-sign a letter urging the Irish Government to pass anti-corruption legislation by September.

Mr Cosgrave was speaking at a press conference in Dublin on Thursday where he also revealed further details about this year’s Web Summit, which takes place in Lisbon in November.

In addition, Mr Cosgrave confirmed the company would be returning to the RDS in Dublin next year to host MoneyConf, its international fintech conference. He said Web Summit maintained “very good” relations with the RDS.

Web Summit expects about 5,000 attendees at next year’s MoneyConf, which takes place in June.

Mr Cosgrave said his decision to take a stand on corruption was based in part on having witnessed it “on a massive scale” for himself. He also said that becoming a parent made him want to ensure his child grew up in a meritocracy.

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“I saw corruption myself at a very young age [and] at a very significant level,” he said.

Mr Cosgrave denied suggestions his call amounted to him entering politics. He said that as the Web Summit derives less that 1 per cent of its revenues from Ireland, he was in a better position than others in the private sector to voice his frustration over the issue of white collar crime.

“I feel I’m freer to say things and I am also in a position where I can pick up the phone to many of the CEOs of the biggest tech companies in the world – who have very large operations in Ireland – and chat openly with them about the fact that Ireland remains alone in terms of being in breach of anti-corruption legislation,” he said.

Mr Cosgrave said there was a need to “shine a light of encouragement on the new government to do the right thing” on corruption if there is no progress made. He added however, that he was very optimistic the Government would take steps to introduce legislation shortly.

‘Muckrackers’

Part of the plans unveiled by Web Summit in its battle against corruption involve funding for the training of investigative journalists, or “muckrakers”, as he called them.

Mr Cosgrave said Ireland has some of the most restrictive freedom of speech legislation in the world and that this was effectively hampering journalists from holding people to account.

“I’m as guilty as a person who runs an airline at exploiting the fact you can create pathetic arguments that are completely meaningless and don’t in any way question or undermine the status quo,” he said.

“When are the media are so tied and strait-jacketed...then it is very difficult to expect anything more of them,” Mr Cosgrave added.

The Web Summit founder announced some of the keynote speakers at this year’s Lisbon conference which include Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich, Microsoft president Brad Smith and European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Discussing some of Web Summit’s other events, Mr Cosgrave said Collision, which is held in New Orleans, was “growing far faster than Web Summit did at a similar stage” and would soon be bigger than South by SouthWest (SXSW), the combined digital tech conference, trade show and festival held annually in Austin, Texas.