We asked an informed and not unrepresentative group to contribute a list of who they think are the most influential people in Ireland; and to rank them.
We did not seek to influence contributors’ view of what “influential” means, except to say that it extends beyond politics and perhaps embraces “making a difference in society”; and that candidates must be alive. The contributors did not express any views on the merits of the people they ranked. We aggregated the contributions mathematically to form the list below. We had compiled a similar list in 2009.
The 2012 contributors are David Davin-Power (Political Correspondent, RTÉ News), Joe Duffy (presenter, Liveline), Karen Gogan (Cork-based Rada-trained actor and director), John Gormley (former Minister for the Environment and former Green Party leader), Constantin Gurdgiev (economist and academic, Trinity College, Dublin), Karlin Lillington (technology columnist, the Irish Times, board member RTÉ), Anne Lucey (freelance Kerry-based journalist), Justine McCarthy (Senior Writer at the Sunday Times, Ireland), Jack O’Connor (General Secretary, SIPTU), Bride Rosney (former director of communications, RTÉ), Michael Smith (editor, Village magazine).
No more than 30 of the 2009 list survived. Of course, all the 2009 Fianna Fáil and Green most influential are gone. There are far more foreigners now, headed by Angela Merkel at 5. In general, the choices in 2012 are more circumspect. Contributors were less inclined to give credit to Irish-based institutions, particularly the civil service but also the media, less inclined to assume a mere title implies influence. Enda Kenny moves from an extraordinary 90th position in 2009 to first. There are 24 women. Vincent Browne is a phenomenon at 3. The Troika scores surprisingly low at 7.
In 2009 our list was best described as “party politicians, economists and businessmen”. The 2012 list is perhaps better rendered as “party politicians, international economic overseers and people who have earned respect”.
1 Enda Kenny Taoiseach; Leader, Fine Gael, main government party; former Minister for Tourism; “father” of the house in Dáil Éireann.
2 Éamon Gilmore Tánaiste; Leader, the Labour Party. Former Democratic Left TD, Trade Unionist and Students’ Union leader.
3 Vincent Browne; Presenter ‘Tonight with Vincent Browne’ on TV3; columnist The Irish Times and Sunday Business Post; former editor, the Sunday Tribune; founding editor, Magill and Village magazines; serial attack dog for political mountebanks: Charles Haughey, Bertie Ahern, Brian Cowen, Troika.
4 Susan Denham; Chief Justice and Longest-serving member of Supreme Court; chaired Commissions which led to Courts Service and Court of Appeal. Educated in Trinity, of which she was a pro-Chancellor, and Columbia, Universities.
5 Angela Merkel; First woman Chancellor of Germany; Chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU); a Hamburg-born physical chemist by profession, Merkel served as the deputy spokesperson for Lothar de Maizière’s democratic East German government before Reunification.
6 Michael Noonan; Minister for Finance, a minister in every FG cabinet since 1982; presided over blood-products scandal when Minister for Health; former UCD-educated teacher in Crescent College, Limerick
7-9 Troika; ‘A commission of three for reaching quick decisions in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin’; or latterly the tripartite committee led by the European Commission with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that organised the financial rescues of Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Wheeled out from time to time to say Ireland is complying with the terms of its bailout, it is an easy bogey-group for the austerity which followed our national binge, though the IMF of the three seems less keen on austerity, and indeed on repaying the unsecured bondholders whose repayment the ECB and Germany sees as essential for the stability of the EU’s other banks.
10 John Moran; New Secretary General in the Department of Finance, the country’s most powerful civil servant. Former lawyer and banker, juice-bar owner and restorer of French chateaux.
11 Michael O’Leary; Foul-mouthed Clongowes-educated aerosexual who profitably runs one of the biggest airlines in the world, Ryanair, headquartered in Dublin; specialises in cheapness and cost-cutting.
12 Michael D Higgins; Outspoken, Clare-born President of Ireland; socialist former Labour Party TD for Galway West; orator, intellectual, academic sociologist and mediocre poet.
13 Patrick Honohan; Governor of Central Bank, former professor of international financial economics and development in TCD with specialism in banking; broke precedent of department of finance alumni taking governership; fell to him to break news that Ireland was getting a bailout.
14 Denis O’Brien; Billionaire head of Communicorp, which owns Newstalk and 98 FM; biggest shareholder in Independent Newspapers; founder of ESAT on whose behalf he paid money to Minister Lowry to secure favourable treatment in the tender process.
15 Joe Duffy; RTÉ Radio phone-in-show broadcaster.
16 Diarmuid Martin; Moderate Catholic archbishop of Dublin; formerly worked in Rome for Holy See.
17 Mary Robinson; Former President of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former barrister and Trinity Senator; academic lawyer. Now leading the Dublin-based Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, which campaigns on climate change.
18 Fintan O’Toole; Irish Times assistant editor, author, polemicist, left-liberal, political correspondent and drama critic; former editor Magill magazine.
19 Miriam O’Callaghan; Popular presenter, ‘Prime Time’, RTÉ’s flagship current affairs/investigative programme and ‘Miriam Meets’, friendship-based radio programme. Formerly worked on BBC’s ‘Newsnight’.
20 Robert Watt; Secretary General of Department of Public Expenditure and Reform 41-year old economist; formerly had responsibility for expenditure policy in department of finance and worked with Indecon Economic Consultants and London Economics.
21 Ruairí Quinn; Veteran Minister for Education and Skills, leader of the Labour Party 1997-2002; Minister for Finance 1994-7.
22 Colm McCarthy; UCD lecturer, clear-thinking right–wing pundit; author, An Bord Snip report; founder of DKM economic consultants.
23 Phil Hogan; Minister for the Environment and Local Government; Enda Kenny’s right-hand man, whose interest in local government positions him well among Fine Gael’s local-authority base and whose interest in the environment – planning, climate change legislation, septic-tank monitoring, turf-cutting – is dubious but perhaps growing.
24 Pat Kenny; Highest-paid Irish broadcaster. Now presenting ‘Frontline’ TV show having moved on from ‘Late Late Show’. Presents ‘Today with PK’ show daily on RTÉ Radio 1; former lecturer in Chemical Engineering.
25 Nicolas Sarkozy; Hyper French President since 2007; facing an imminent election which he is expected to lose to Francois Hollande. Has been a force in the EU representing traditionally significant France to counter mighty Germany’s obsessions with austerity and avoiding inflation.
26 Brendan McDonagh; 43-year old Managing Director of the National Asset Management Agency (bad bank). Previously was Director for Finance, Technology & Risk with the National Treasury Management Agency and worked for the ESB.
27 Tony O’Reilly; Former CEO of INM and Heinz.
28 Kevin O’Sullivan; Newly-appointed ‘business-friendly’ editor of the Irish Times, of which he had been news editor since 2006. Previously night editor, special projects editor, environmental and food science correspondent and worked with the Connacht Tribune and the Tuam Herald. Has a BSc from UCD and a diploma in Journalism from DCU.
29 Mary McAleese; Former two-term President of Ireland; former academic lawyer and tv current affairs reporter; plans to study in Italy and will return to studying law.
31 Mark Zuckerburg; 27-year-old multi-billionaire CEO of Facebook, social networking site; a computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. Claims to speak French, Hebrew, Latin, and ancient Greek.
32 Joan Burton; Minister for Social Welfare, former Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Finance, the Labour Party; has bachelor of Commerce from UCD and lectured in accountancy in DIT.
33 Judge Peter Kelly; Formidable Tridentine-mass-attending head of the Commercial Court. Appears to take no nonsense from commercial and development types and their lawyers.
34 Brendan Howlin; Unprepossessing Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform, former Leas-Cheann Comhairle of Dáil, Minister for the Environment 1994-97, Minister for Health 1993-1994.
35 Barack Obama; President, the USA. Former Community organiser, constitutional-law lecturer and Illinois and US Senator.
36 Frank Convery; Chairman, Atlantic-Philanthropies-funded Irish Fiscal Policy Research Centre, board member Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Change, former member NRA, former Chairman, Comhar, senior fellow, the Earth Sciences Institute, UCD, former Professor of Environmental Studies, UCD.
37 Micheál Martin; Leader Fianna Fáil Minister for Education and Science (1997–2000), Minister for Health and Children (2000–04) – introduced smoking ban, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (2004–08) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (2008–11).
38 Jack O’Connor; General President SIPTU and President ICTU. Has served on Labour Party executive though is also Sinn Féin friendly.
39 Joe Higgins; Irish-speaking former teacher and priest. Articulate socialist party TD for Dublin West; former MEP for Dublin; often speaks for the independent ‘technical’ group in Dáil.
40 Emily O’Reilly; Charlie-McCreevy-appointed Ombudsman and Information Commissioner, ex-officio member of the Standards in Public Office Commission, the Referendum Commission and the Commission for Public Service Appointments and Commissioner for Environmental Information. Former editor Magill and distinguished journalist, the Sunday Press and Irish Press.
41 Norah Gibbons; Director of Advocacy, Barnardos Children’s Charity, former Commissioner, the Commission into Child Abuse.
42 Gerry Adams; President of Sinn Féin, TD for Louth and former abstentionist MP for West Belfast. Former butcher and probable IRA leader, though denies it.
43 Noel Curran; Director-General of RTÉ. Produced ‘Kenny Live’, ‘The Late Late Show’ and Eurovision Song Contest 1997, whose winner he married; as editor of current affairs, he helped launch the “Prime Time Investigates series”.
44 Giovanni Trapatonni; Manager of the Irish soccer team at forthcoming UEFA Euro 2012, and former coach of Italy. The only manager to have won all UEFA club competitions and the Intercontinental Cup. He achieved this with Juventus over two spells with the club.
45 Diarmuid O’Flynn and other Ballyhea, Co. Cork, protestors Members of anti-bondholder bailout campaign. The Guardian reported: “the usually placid people in the Irish hamlet of Ballyhea have been so enraged by the government’s austerity measures that they have taken to marching in the streets every Sunday. But has anyone noticed?”.
46-47 Katherin Zappone / Anne Louise Gilligan; Have pending Supreme Court case seeking to have their gay marriage recognised.
Zappone is a Boston-College educated independent Senator, commissioner with the Irish Human Rights Commission; former CEO of National Women’s Council of Ireland; taught ethics, practical theology and education in Trinity College Dublin; led and established the Tallaght West Childhood Development Initiative.
Gilligan is a former Lecturer in St Patrick’s College in philosophy of education, modern philosophy and gender studies; she established and directed its Centre in Educational Disadvantage; and established and chaired the National Education Welfare Board.
48 Mario Draghi; President of the European Central Bank, Italian economist and former governor of the bank of Italy; described by Bild tabloid as “the most German of all the candidates” for ECB President; fellow of JFK school of government, Harvard.
49 Hillary McGouran; Series Editor and former reporter for, ‘Morning Ireland’. Graduated in Journalism from College of Commerce, Rathmines.
50 Christine Lagarde; Managing director of the International Monetary Fund 2011. Previously; was French Minister of Finance and before that Minister of Agriculture and of Trade; first female chair of international law firm Baker & McKenzie. Her father was a Professor of English at Rouen University.
51 Niall Ó Donnchú; Assistant Secretary General of the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport with areas of responsibility in: Arts, film & music policy; Cultural institutions; Information Technology services; is on the Boards of the National Concert Hall and Culture Ireland. He is a graduate of Queen’s University Belfast and the London School of Economics.
52 Peter Mathews; Somewhat self-important Rosary-bead throwing former banker, financial expert and Fine Gael TD for Dublin South.
53 Pearse Doherty; Articulate and forceful Glasgow-born Sinn Féin finance spokesperson and TD for Donegal South West; 35-year old former civil engineering technician.
54 Tim Geithner; US Treasury Secretary and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Mandarin-speaking, Bangkok-high-schooled he worked for three years for Kissinger Associates.
55 Colm Tóibín; Acclaimed multiple-Booker-nominated author and commentator; worked as journalist for In Dublin, Hibernia and The Sunday Tribune, becoming features editor of In Dublin in 1981 and editor of Magill magazine, in 1982.
56 Matthew Elderfield; The Financial Regulator; former chief executive of the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA). Graduate of Cambridge University and has a bachelor degree in foreign service, cum laude, from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.
57 Alan Shatter; Fine Gael Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, former solicitor specialising in family law; has taken fairly brave stance on competition in legal profession; pro-Israel; as a student, he was Director of the Crumlin Free Legal Advice Centre and later became Chairman of FLAC; for many years was chairman of Council Against Blood sports.
58 Anne Harris; Editor, Sunday Independent. Widow of Sunday Independent editor, Aengus Fanning; previously married to polemical columnist, Eoghan Harris. Feminist, anti-Republican former socialist she pioneered personalised, celebrity-oriented journalism in an Irish broadsheet; formerly worked for Hibernia, Irish Press and Image.
59 Gordon Jeyes; HSE National Director for Children and Family Services. He was the UK’s first Director of Children’s Services and has provided advice to governments in Scotland and at Westminster on the development of Children’s Services.
60 Stephen Donnelly; Independent TD for Wicklow and East Carlow. Studied engineering at UCD and MIT before joining McKinsey & Company. Has a Masters’ degree in Public Administration from Harvard’s JFK School of Government where he studied the interaction between the IMF and small states.
61 Ollie Rehn; Finnish European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs; former Commissioner for Enlargement; has a PhD from Oxford on the subject of “Corporatism and Industrial Competitiveness in Small European States”.
62 Ryan Tubridy; Talented and bouncy presenter, ‘The Late Late Show’, Ireland’s most watched TV Programme and a popular morning programme on 2FM; grandson of Todd Andrews and brother of Garret, unsuccessful local election candidate for Fianna Fáil in 2007.
63 José Manuel; Barroso President, the European Commission. Former PSD Prime Minister of Portugal. Has degrees in law and economics.
64 Máire Whelan; Attorney General. Offered unusually independent advice on fiscal treaty referendum; Labour’s former financial secretary and a member of the party for almost 30 years; protégée of Michael D Higgins; wrote legal textbook on NAMA; is former chairwoman of the Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac); studied at University of London.
65 Jag Singh; Editor, Namawinelake, well-informed website focused on National Asset Management Agency, economics, property and politics.
66 Declan Ganley; Federalist chairman of Libertas which campaigned for No vote to Lisbon Treaty and unsuccessfully promoted candidates for the 2009 European Parliament elections. Head of Rivada Networks which supplies telecommunications equipment to US military and emergency services. Uncharacteristically uncertain how to campaign in forthcoming referendum.
67 Michael O’Kane; Editor, the Irish Daily Star; previously worked at RTÉ where he reported from Northern Ireland; joined the Star in 2002 as News Editor.
68 Martin McGuinness; Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin candidate for the Irish presidential election, 2011. A former Provisional IRA leader, McGuinness is the abstentionist MP for the Mid Ulster constituency. Also a member of Northern Ireland Assembly for the same constituency.
69 Donal Óg Cusack; Well-known hurler and Ireland’s first openly gay elite sportsman; plays hurling for Cloyne and has been a member of the Cork senior team since 1999; an electrician by trade; revealing autobiography, “Come What May”.
70 John Crown; Senator, polemicist and consultant oncologist; New-York-born professor of cancer research in DCU and UCD.
71 Mick Wallace; Independent left-wing TD, property developer and former manager of Wexford Youths soccer team; pink-shirt-wearing philosophy graduate; developer of Dublin’s Italian quarter; threatened with bankruptcy in downturn.
72 Alan Mahon; Circuit Court Judge, now chairing Planning Tribunal, which has not sat for three-and-a-half years, despite clocking up expenses of €50,000 on lunches for judges and the tribunal’s legal team, and more than €200,000 in expenses for judges and their staff.
73 Catherine Day; Secretary-General of the European Commission. Former Director General for Environment. Economically-liberal Dubliner; has MA in International Trade from UCD; was loan officer at the Investment Bank of Ireland in 1974; served in the cabinets of Richard Burke, Peter Sutherland and Leon Brittan.
74 Patrick Cunningham; Chief Scientific Advisor to government and champion of Dublin City of Science 2012 – Europe’s largest science conference; Professor of Animal Genetics at Trinity College, Dublin.
75 Michael Geoghegan; HSBC Group’s chief executive from 2006-11 before ousting by board; conducted recent review of NAMA which stated: “the agency’s focus to date has been on control and accountability” But it must now evolve into the “pro-active, externally focussed, entrepreneurial, confident business it needs to be”.
76 Connie Hedegard; Danish EU Commissioner for Climate Action. Hosted UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009 when she was Danish Minister for Climate and Energy.
77 Gavin Sheridan; Innovation Director at Storyful. Co-founder at thestory.ie; founded KildareStreet.com; worked for the Irish Examiner and blogs at Gavin’s Blog; obsessive about freedom of information.
78 Anna Carragher; Investigating officer for Broadcasting Authority of Ireland into ‘Prime Time Investigates’ programme Mission To Prey, which wrongly accused Father Kevin Reynolds of raping a minor; former controller of BBC Northern Ireland. Her investigation is important for future of Public Service Broadcasting in Ireland.
79 Pat Moylan; Martin-Cullen-appointed chair, Arts council; former Artistic Director of Andrews Lane Theatre; independent producer of ‘Twelve Angry Men’, ‘I Keano’, ‘Alone it Stands’; she produced the multi-award winning short film ‘The Breakfast’ and successful feature film ‘Borstal Boy’, both directed by Peter Sheridan.
80 Martin O’Brien; Senior Vice President for Programmes at Atlantic Philanthropies, based in Belfast; manages Atlantic’s four programmes – Ageing, Children & Youth, Population Health and Reconciliation & Human Rights. Crucially for strapped NGOs Atlantic will disburse its remaining endowment by 2016. Formerly co-ordinated the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ).
81 Paddy Prendiville (or is it Prendeville?); Elusive veteran editor of dirty-laundry-washing Phoenix Magazine, now owned by Aengus Mulcahy.
82 Katie Taylor; World amateur women’s boxing champion. Also plays with Irish Women’s senior soccer team; potential for gold medal at Olympics could lead to significant increase in women’s participation in minority sports.
83 Kevin McNamara; Curate at St Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney, who has fought the removal of religious symbols from hospitals and churches in the diocese.
84 John Herlihy; Head of Google Ireland, vice-president of Google’s global ad operations; believes mobile phones will supersede desktops within two years; has UCD B.Comm and formerly worked for KPMG Dublin.
85 Pat Rabbitte; Unflappable Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Labour TD for Dublin South–West; Labour Party leader 2002 to 2007; former ITGWU National Secretary and President Union of Students in Ireland (1972-74).
86 Paul O’Connell; Currently-injured Irish rugby captain; plays lock for Munster and Ireland; captained British and Irish Lions on 2009 South Africa tour; former star swimmer.
87 Fiach MacConghail; Director, Abbey Theatre; Senator; Chairman, We the Citizens initiative which championed a citizens’ assembly but, disappointingly, little else.
88 Josephine Fehilly; Chairwoman, Revenue Commissioners, since 2008; Revenue Commissioner since 1998; dislikes complicated legislation; worked in Charlie Haughey’s private office from 1977 to 1979 and found him “an exacting task master’’.
89 Loughlin Deegan; Director of The Lir, the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Trinity College; playwright, former arts manager for The Belltable and Druid, company producer of Rough Magic, and Artistic Director and CEO of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
90 Frank McDonald; Veteran Irish Times Environment Editor and author of many books including, notably, The Destruction of Dublin, 1979.
91 Clare Daly; Socialist Party & United Left Alliance TD for Dublin North. Formerly a Councillor for Swords; long-term opponent of land speculation and strong opponent of Household Charge.
92 Fionnuala Kenny; Wife of Taoiseach, Enda Kenny; once said her role was to make sure her husband didn’t have to worry about home or their three children; Dublin-born former press officer – the first woman – for Charles Haughey; former head of Governnment Information Service and former PR Manager for RTÉ.
93 Seamus Heaney; Northern Irish poet, playwright, and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature, which cited his “works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”; Aosdána Saoi since 1997; Harvard and Oxford Professors of Poetry; Robert Lowell called him “the most important Irish poet since Yeats”.
94 Richard Bruton; Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Fine Gael TD for Dublin North Central; previously Minister for Enterprise and Employment; Deputy Leader of Fine Gael from 2002-2010 when he shockingly and unsuccessfully challenged Enda Kenny for leadership; educated at Clongowes and has masters in Economics from Oxford.
95 Eamon Sinnott; Vice-president and general manager of Intel in Ireland, which employs 4,000 in Leixlip, where it is refitting, creating 850 jobs; director, American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland; concerned to keep corporation tax down; MBA from UCD and BSc fromTrinity.
96 Éanna Ní Lamhna; Long-standing ‘naturalist’ member of panel of experts on RTÉ’s ‘Mooney’ programme; former president An Taisce; author; has a degree in Botany and Microbiology and an H.Dip in Education from UCD.
97 Ivana Bacik; Liberal leader of Labour group on, and deputy leader of, Seanad Éireann; on unpaid leave from Reid Professorship of Criminal Law in Trinity College; barrister; former head, Trinity Students’ Union, where she was sued by SPUC.
98 Tom Murphy; Dramatist for the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and Druid Theatre, Galway. His work is characterised by experimentation in form and content. Recurring themes include the search for redemption. With Brian Friel considered Ireland’s greatest living playwright.
99 Adrian Hardiman; Supreme Court Judge, unsuccessful FF local election candidate, former president of the Students’ Union at UCD and Auditor of the L and H debating society, UCD; aficianado of James Joyce.
100 Andrew McDowell; Special Adviser to the Taoiseach – Head of Policy and Programme Implementation at Department of An Taoiseach; former Fine Gael economic advisor; former Forfás Chief Economist; cousin once removed, Michael McDowell.
– April 2012