Wednesday 24 May 2017

Albert would not have survived in a world where anti-business pervades politics

Members of the public file past the remains of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds lying in repose in the Oak Room, Mansion House, Dublin yesterday
Members of the public file past the remains of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds lying in repose in the Oak Room, Mansion House, Dublin yesterday

A week ago today Albert Reynolds sadly passed away. Appropriate tributes, appreciations and analysis were paid to his life achievements. But a broader question of political reflection now needs asking: Could an Albert be elected Taoiseach today? Methinks a character immersed in a business background couldn't succeed in our modern era of a political ascent to the summit of the greasy pole. Even worse, I fear the prospects of entrepreneurs getting to first base of Dail election are currently remote.

The availability of business people to stand for election is a rarity. In today's corporate world, founders of businesses tend not to endure beyond a glass ceiling. Independent enterprises lack deep pockets or access to equity capital to retain ownership for the fastest-growing profitable businesses; the best option being to flip, sell at top of the market. Most family businesses don't survive beyond the third generation. Therefore, contemporary high-profile business executives are mostly senior employees rather than founders/owners/managers. Prevailing salaries won't tempt the likes of Michael O'Leary into politics. It's incompatible to run a dual career.

Leaving aside international billionaires and property developers; potentially electable entrepreneurs and self-made indigenous successes like Padraig O'Ceide, Amanda Pratt, Liam Griffin, Darina Allen, Pat McDonagh, Bill Cullen, Gillian Bowler, Denis Desmond, Eddie O Connor or John Teeling wouldn't be persuaded to put their name on a ballot paper.

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