The political pulse: Brexit pessimism and post-austerity choices

MacGill Summer School had intense, informed debates on these two big themes

Paschal Donohoe: many of the economic choices facing the State will fall to him. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Paschal Donohoe: many of the economic choices facing the State will fall to him. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The MacGill Summer School, held annually in Glenties, Co Donegal, and which has been taking place all this week, is easy to parody. Official Ireland talking to itself, then having a few pints. Retired civil servants on generous pensions lecturing the Government on fiscal prudence. Interest groups given another platform. The establishment on tour.

In fact, as anyone who has attended (declaration: I attend every year) knows, while the parody isn’t entirely without a grain of truth, there’s a lot more to MacGill than that. Just as the hardier participants meet each morning to start the day with a bracing plunge into the Atlantic off Portnoo pier, the 10 hours of debates each day are a pretty intense immersion in policy and political issues, mostly led by people who have more than a decent working knowledge of what they are talking about. It’s really more than just insiders windbagging with insiders; it’s the leading forum for discussion on what our country should be doing, how, where and when, conducted by people who are either involved in these decisions or who have been in the recent past.

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