The advice given by the Irish Institute of Directors to Irish Americans, and Irish-born who are living in the US, to turn down offers to serve on Irish boards as catalysts for investment and creating contacts, has been slammed by former San Jose Mayor Tom McEnery writing in the Irish Times.
The head of that institute, Maura Quinn, had told the Irish Times that her organization, “believes that all candidates for a particular State board position should be assessed against the relevant framework, rather than appointed on the basis of being members of the diaspora, who have volunteered their services.
“Then you get into the practicalities of people who are thousands of miles away,” she said, “Anybody who is a director on a board will tell you that, no matter how sophisticated [the technology], nothing compares to being actually in the room,”
Quinn claimed that Ireland needed to be ”conscious of the “optics” of courting overseas executives, as it tacitly implied a lack of suitably qualified people in Ireland.
“If we are going to restore international trust in Ireland, we should be demonstrating that we have trust in ourselves,” she said.
In a strongly worded rebuttal, McEnery, who was responsible for the first Silicon Valley outreach to Ireland back when he was Mayor of San Jose in the 1980s says, “One would think that all is well in Ireland. The truth is far more brutal as Irish governments and institutions, past and present, have been buffeted by a righteous gale of cynicism and outrage.
"After years of politicians and bureaucrats catering to their own selfish agendas and thoughtless policies, Ireland is suffering.” he wrote.
“I was present during heady events such as the Intel ground breaking and the initiation of the Apple project. I was there when San Jose provided free offices for the IDA to proselytise the merits of Ireland throughout Silicon Valley.
"Such help was not the reason for the successes of the Irish tech sector – the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of the Irish did that deed – but it certainly gave it a mighty push. Then it was great to be working together on projects that really helped people."
McEnery went on to list some of those who were willing to serve on Irish boards. “Entrepreneurs such as Trinity-educated chief executive Conrad Burke, and John Hartnett, who created the Irish Technology Leadership Group from whole cloth, can provide the assistance that our grandparents and more recent emigrants were never given.
"Tempered leaders such as Barry O’Sullivan of Cisco and Rory McInerny of Intel, John Gilmore of Nest and Rich Moran, the inimitable chief executive of Accenture, all know how to set strategies and measure them.
"Dozens more have agree to serve at no pay, no perks. From Microsoft to Disney, they are adept at business plans and accountability.”
McEnery blamed, “a paralysing fear of change” for the Irish attitude to overseas directors.
“We find it tragic that in the midst of the implosion of the Irish economy and the demise of the dream of so many of the bright-eyed youth of Trinity College, UCD, UCC and the other colleges, that we received this clumsy response... they will face the spectre of emigration, with only denial to blame this time.
“The members of the boards of Apple and Intel and the other giants of the brave new world which has changed all our lives can fly, teleconference, face time, and seem to be doing quite well at it, at least as well as the former, close-knit members of the Anglo Irish Bank board.
“I hope our sincere offer to help will be accepted. Let our ideas on economic and political reform be vetted and discussed, not cavalierly deflected. The representatives of he Irish nation must act not in fear, not in uncertainty – but for the love of God, they must act,” McEnery concluded..