Ireland’s Most Influential 100, 2009

We asked an informed and not unrepresentative group of people to list who they think are the most influential people in Ireland; and to rank them unattributably. We did not seek to influence contributors’ views of what “influential” means, except to say that it extends beyond politics and perhaps embraces “making a difference in society”; and that the 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.

The contributors are Shane Coleman (political editor, The Sunday Tribune), Niall Crowley (former CEO, the Equality Authority), Deirdre De Burca (Green Senator, Wicklow), Emma Freeman (Community worker, Ballymun), Constantin Gurdgiev (economist and academic, Trinity College, Dublin), Denis Hickie (former rugby international, Dublin), Enda Leahy (News editor, the Mail on Sunday), Jack O’Connor (General Secretaty, SIPTU), Kathy Sinnott (former MEP, Cork), Michael Smith (editor, Village magazine), Trevor White (former editor, Dubliner magazine).

The list is notable for a preponderance, particularly at the top, of politicians with an economics orientation and of economists generally, businessmen, national broadcasters and trades unionists, for a lack of women, a lack of academics and a lack of under-40s. It is perhaps surprising that Brian Lenihan obtained nearly fifty per cent more votes than Brian Cowen – but this reflects the current striking national obsession with the economy.The most influential person [exclusively based in] Northern Ireland charts at 100. Enda Kenny ranks 90th. For your information, Éamon Dunphy was 101st.

Brian Lenihan Minister for Finance, part-Cambridge-educated, former Trinity constitutional law lecturer and barrister.

Brian Cowen Taoiseach, former Minister for Finance, and one-time solicitor.

Richard Bruton Fine Gael spokesperson on Finance and deputy leader, Oxford-educated economist.

Denis O’Brien Head of Communicorp, which owns Newstalk and 98, shareholder in Independent Newspapers, founder of ESAT whose successful mobile-phone licence is under protracted investigation by the Moriarty Tribunal.

Eamon Gilmore Leader, the Labour Party. Former Democratic Left TD, Trade Unionist and Student Union leader.

Mary Harney Minister for Health. Former leader the PDs, Tánaiste and one-time FF Senator, appointed by Jack Lynch.

Geraldine Kennedy Editor, The Irish Times. Former PD TD.

José Manuel Barroso President, the European Commission. Former PSD Prime Minister of Portugal. Degrees in law and economics.

Michael O’Leary CEO, Ryanair, Europe’s most popular airline. Obtained business degree from Trinity.

10 John Gormley Leader, the Green Party, and Minister for the Environment.

11 Joe Duffy RTÉ Radio phone-in broadcaster.

12 Jack O’Connor General President SIPTU Union, and Vice-President, ICTU.

13 Barack Obama President, the USA. Former Community organiser, constitutional-law lecturer and Illinois and US Senator.

14 Dermot McCarthy Secretary General, the Department of the Taoiseach, the country’s most senior civil servant. Has a Trinity College Master’s in economics.

15 Mary Robinson Former President of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former barrister and Trinity Senator. Academic lawyer.

16 Dermot Desmond Investor, founder of NCB stockbrokers and IIU private-equity firm.

17 Tony O’Reilly Former CEO of INM and Heinz.

18 Cathal Goan Director-General, RTÉ, former head of Television and producer RTÉ, founding Ceannasaí, Telifís na Gaeilge.

19 David Doyle Outgoing Secretary-General, Department of Finance, the country’s currently most powerful civil servant. Has UCD Degree in Economics and History.

20 Marian Finucane Presenter weekend radio show and former architect.

21 Diarmuid Martin Catholic archbishop of Dublin. Formerly worked in Rome for the Holy See.

22 Sean Quinn Probably still Ireland’s richest man. Founder and head of Quinn Cement-to-Insurance group. Lost €1bn in Anglo-Irish Bank.

23 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.

24 Bono Lead-singer with world’s most famous band. Campaigner against third–world debt and AIDS.

25 Declan Ganley Chairman of Libertas which campaigned for a No vote to the Lisbon Treaty and – largely unsuccessfully – promoted candidates for the 2009 European Parliament elections. Head of Rivada Networks which supplies telecomunications equipment to US military and emergency services.

26 Jean Claude Trichet French head of the European Central Bank. Acquitted in 2003 of charges relating to irregularities in Credit Lyonnais when he was head of the French Treasury.

27 Paul Gallagher Attorney General, and senior counsel.

28 Charlie McCreevy Former Minister for Finance and Chartered Accountant and current EU Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services.

29 Ryan Tubridy Presenter the Late Late Show and the daily Tubridy Show, RTÉ Radio.

30 Rupert Murdoch Oxford-educated Australian-American Managing Director of News Corporation which owns the Fox Network in the US, the Times and Sun newspapers in the UK and Star TV in Hong Kong.

31 Aengus Fanning Editor, the Sunday Independent, Ireland’s largest-selling newspaper. He was formerly farming editor of the Irish Independent.

32 Pádraig Walshe President, the Irish Farmers Association, Laois farmer, and former chairman of Macra na Feirme.

33 Lisa Pereira Producer of Morning Ireland, Ireland’s most listened-to radio programme – into which she feeds live material during the programme. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, college-educated in the US, she worked for In Dublin magazine.

34 Mary Mc Aleese President of Ireland. Former academic lawyer and TV current affairs reporter

35 Michael Somers CEO, National Treasury Management Agency, managing the national debt, former Secretary, Department of Defence. Holds a PhD in economics from UCD.

36 Miriam O’Callaghan presenter, Prime Time, RTÉ’s flagship current affairs/investigative programme. Formerly worked on BBC’s Newsnight.

37 Patrick Honohan Newly-appointed non-Department-of-Finance Governor of Central Bank. Was Professor of International Financial Economics and Development in TCD with specialism in banking.

38 Colm McCarthy UCD lecturer, author An Bord Snip report, and founder of DKM economic consultants.

39 Anne Harris, Deputy editor, the Sunday Independent, Formerly worked for Vincent Browne’s Nusight and John Mulcahy’s Hibernia.

40 Brendan Drumm CEO the Health Services Executive which employs 90,000 people. Educated UCG, worked in Canada and was a professor of paediatrics.

41 David McWilliams Pundit and TV presenter who formerly worked for the Central Bank and for UBS and BNP.

42 David Begg General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and former Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide. A Director of the Central Bank, a Governor of the Irish Times Trust, Chairperson of the Democracy Commission and a member of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

43 Joan Burton Deputy Leader and Spokesperson On Finance, the Labour Party. Bachelor of Commerce from UCD and lectured in accountancy in DIT.

44 Dermot Gleeson Former Attorney General and Chairman of AIB.

45 Richie Boucher Zambia-born CEO of Bank of Ireland. Earned degree in business from Trinity and worked for RBS in England before becoming head of retail banking for Bank of Ireland.

46 Gerard O’Regan Editor, the Irish Independent, biggest selling daily broadsheet (though also appears as tabloid), former editor the Star and the Evening Herald. Joined Tuam Herald after school.

47 Seamus Heaney Derry-born poet and Nobel laureate in Literature.

48 Dermot Ahern Louth-based Minister for Justice and former solicitor.

49 Bob Geldof Blackrock-educated singer, media businessman and campaigner on third-world poverty.

50 Mary Coughlan Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise. Studied Social Science in UCD, and practiced as social worker.

51 Ciaran Connolly Secretary General, Public Service Management and Development, the Department of Finance. Entered civil service through Revenue Commissioners.

52 Judge Sean Ryan High Court Judge and author of report into abuse in industrial schools. As a barrister, he was Senior Counsel to the inquiry into abuse in the Catholic diocese of Ferns and chairman of the Compensation Advisory Committee which prepared guidelines on compensation to be paid to abuse survivors at the Residential Institutions Redress Board. In September 2003, Seán Ryan was selected to head the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.

53 Sean Aylward Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, and former head of the Prison Service.

54 Colm O’Gorman Head of Amnesty International Ireland, former PD Candidate in Wexford and founder of One-in-Four which campaigned on child abuse.

55 Joan Freeman Founder Pieta House, Ireland’s first Suicide Prevention Centre expressed suicidal intent or attempted suicide

56 Ger Colleran Editor the Star, former editor, the Kerryman. Earned BSc in Economics from London University, and MBA from the University of Limerick.

57 Dieter Schwarz German entrepreneur. He is the chairman and CEO of supermarket chain Lidl, and owner of the Schwarz-Gruppe.

58 Peter McVerry Ballymun-based Jesuit priest whose Trust works with homeless children. Earned a degree in science from UCD.

59 Fergus Finlay CEO, Barnardos, children’s charity, and former Labour Party advisor.

60 Chuck Feeney US-based Philanthropist with focus on Ireland. Entrepreneur who made a fortune in Duty-Free shopping.

61 John Murray Chief Justice of Ireland, former Judge of the Court of Justice of the European Communities and Attorney General.Former President of USI.

62 Vincent Browne Presenter of Tonight with Vincent Browne four nights weekly on TV3, columnist the Irish Times and Sunday Business Post, former editor, the Sunday Tribune, founding editor, Magill and Village magazines.

63 Garret Fitzgerald Former Fine Gael Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs, economist and weekly columnist in the Irish Times.

64 Giovanni Trapattoni Manager of the Irish soccer team, 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.

65 Pope Benedict xvi Pope, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

66 Sean Brady Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. Cardinal Brady obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Ancient Classics and a licentiate in theology in Maynooth.

67 Fr Brian McKevitt Dominican priest and editor of freesheet Alive, a monthly Catholic newspaper.

68 Gordon Brown Prime Minister of UK and leader of British Labour Party, former long-term Chancellor of the Exchequer. Has a PhD in History from Edinburgh University of which he became Provost and used to be a TV presenter.

69 Gerry Adams President of Sinn Féin and abstentionist MP for West Belfast. Former butcher and probable IRA leader, though denies it.

70 Charlie Bird Charlie Bird joined RTÉ in 1974 as a researcher in Current Affairs before entering the newsroom as a reporter six years later. Formerly RTÉ’s Chief News Correspondent and now Washington Correspondent. Has been with RTÉ since 1974 after membership of Young Socialists and Official Sinn Féin.

71 Jerry Bruckheimer Producer of movies including Pirates of the Carribean, Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cops and TV series including CSI. Graduated in Psychology, University of Arizona.

72 Sr Stanislaus Kennedy Nun, founder and life president of Focus Ireland, founder and Director of the Sanctuary, founder of Social Innovations Ireland out of which she founded The Immigrant Council of Ireland and Young Social Innovators. Recent debate about what she knew about sexual abuse within her order, the Sisters of Charity.

73 Richard Plepler executive vice president for Home Box Office (HBO), the television-programming subsidiary of Time Warner Inc – which makes Sex in the City, the Sopranos etc.. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and is a member of the US Council on Foreign Relations.

74 Matt Cooper Presenter, the Last Word on 98FM, former editor the Sunday Tribune, business editor, the Irish Independent. Graduate of DCU Journalism and UCC Commerce.

75 John Ging Head of the United Nation’s Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip, employing 10,000 employees. Former Chief of Staff for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Bosnia and Herzegovina and head of UN mission in Kosovo.

76 Jim O’Hara General Manager, Intel Ireland which spent €300,000 on a Yes to Lisbon campain. President of US Chamber of Commerce in Ireland.

77 Éamon Ryan Minister for Energy and Communications, former CEO, Irish Cycling Safaris. Obtained BComm from UCD.

78 Susan Denham Longest-serving member of Supreme Court. Chaired influential Commissions which led to Courts Service and Court of Appeal. Educated in Trinity, of which she is pro-Chancellor, and Columbia Universities.

79 JP McManus Gambler, foreign-exchange trader, philanthropist and National Hunt racing’s largest owner with over 400 horses in training.

80 Hilary McGouran Series Editor and former reporter for, Morning Ireland. Graduated in Journalism from College of Commerce, Rathmines.

81 Adrian Hardiman Supreme Court Judge, unsuccessful FF local election candidate, former President of the Student Union at UCD and Auditor of its Literary and Historical Society.

82 George Hook Hosts The Right Hook on Newstalk and rugby pundit. Graduated from Rathmines College of Commerce. Owned a catering business and coached rugby to London Irish, Connacht, and the American National Team.

83 Fachtna Murphy Commissioner of An Garda Síochána. Has degree in Police Management .

84 Willie Slattery Country Head, State Street Bank Ireland. Formerly CEO of Deutsche Bank and worked in Central Bank.

85 Ben Bernanke Chairman, US Federal Reserve.

86 Shane McElhatton Editor, Morning Ireland. Former presenter, News at One. Obtained Master’s in politics from UCD.

87 Michael Scanlan Secretary-General Department of Health. Tipped to become Secretary-General Department of Finance

88 Simon Cowell Talent judge on TV shows such as Pop Idol, American Idol, The X Factor, and Britain’s Got Talent. Owns TV production and music publishing house, Syco.

89 Alan Ahearne Special Advisor to the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan. Formerly an academic in NUI Galway and before that was a Senior Economist in the International Finance Division of the Federal Reserve System in Washington DC

90 Enda Kenny Leader, Fine Gael. Former Minister for Tourism. The “father” of the house in Dail Éireann.

91 Sean Gorman Secretary General at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Formerly Assistant Secretary in the Labour Force Development Division of the Department and was Ministerial representative on the Board of FÁS.

92 Gavin O’Reilly CEO of Independent News and Media, the largest press group in Ireland and South Africa, with almost 200 titles. President of the World Association of Newspapers (2005-2010), and a director of the Ireland Funds.

93 Bertie Ahern Former Taoiseach. Adjunct professor of conflict resolution, Maynooth. Possible presidential candidate. Benefited from dubious “dig-outs” from businessmen while in office.

94 Catherine McGuinness President of the Law Reform Commission and retired Supreme Court judge. Chair of the Irish Universities Quality Board and former senator.

95 Barry O’Leary CEO, the Industrial Development Authority. Formerly Director, IDA Europe

96 Danny McCoy Director, IBEC of which he was formerly policy officer. Was Research officer in ESRI and lectured in economics in Trinity and Oxford.

97 Eoghan Harris Taoiseach’s appointee to Seanad and columnist, the Sunday Independent. Former Stickie, RTÉ producer, and then advisor to John Bruton and Mary Robinson.

98 Blair Horan General Secretary Civil, Public and Services Union. Secretary Pro-Lisbon Charter Group.

99 Denis Desmond Concert promoter and fast-food entrepreneur.

100 Peter Robinson First Minister, Northern Ireland and leader DUP. Former estate agent.