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Select few held all the power…

Resource type: News

Irish Examiner |

A SMALL number of interconnected people wielded massive power at the apex of Irish business during the boom years 2005-2007, according to a report from the TASC think-tank. In the report, Mapping the Golden Circle, TASC reveals the extent of this informal network across 40 of Ireland’s top private companies and state-owned bodies during the height of the boom.

Some of those named as holding the largest number of directorships in these enterprises during this period are former Anglo boss Sean Fitz-Patrick, who held five, CRH chairman Kieran McGowan, also with five, and Gary McCann and Bernard Somers, both with four. The woman with the highest number was Anne Heraty, a director of the three of the 40 key companies studied.

TASC director and report co-author Paula Clancy said: “The economic crisis has focused attention on how we run our businesses. Corporate governance is at risk when people are over-extended.”

She added: “Mapping the Golden Circle shows ‘where the risk of over-extension lies. We know too that when people know each other very well and share similar backgrounds, as many in the Director Network do, companies run the risk of ‘group-think’, where decisions are made that ignore alternative evidence as a result of a group s desire to reach consensus.”

The 40 companies studied in the report include Bord Gais, the Central Bank, AIB, Smurfit, Anglo Irish Bank, Ryanair and Aer Lingus. The total number of directors involved in managing these companies was 572.

In the period 2005-2007, a network of 39 people held positions in 33 of the 40 top private companies and state-owned bodies. Between them, these 39, referred to as the Director Network in TASC’s report, held a total of 93 directorships.

According to the report the company with the most amount of links to other firms in the so-called Golden Circle was Anglo Irish Bank, followed by Bank of Ireland and Irish Life and Permanent.

Launching the report, commentator Fintan O’Toole said that it was known that the interconnections mapped out in the research were further connected to complex relations of a political nature

He added that “the basic ethical culture” of the Irish corporate world was “extraordinary weak”.

In attendance at the launch were ICTU president Jack O’Connor, ICTU general secretary David Begg and Green senator Dan Boyle.

TASC is an independent think-tank funded by donations, and partially by a grant from the charitable organisation Atlantic Philanthropies.

• Mapping the Golden Circle can be downloaded at 

Originally appeared in the Irish Examiner, May 14
th 2010.  It is currently not available online for viewing.

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