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The Punt: Curiosity surrounds Barroso's latest speech


European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso


European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

WE THOUGHT university students were supposed to be rebels, always ready to fight The Man and reject The Establishment. If ever there's an uprising of euroscepticism, we expect it to start at a university. But this is evidently not the case down at University College Cork. UCC will welcome none other than president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso next Wednesday.

Barroso is to be awarded an honourary doctorate of law and deliver a speech. The event's organisers clearly think he is going to say something important – the press release on the matter noted that "President Barroso has requested speaking time of up to 25 minutes, an indication that he has a specific message he wishes to convey to Ireland".

We're curious to hear what message the commission president will give this time around. The last time he visited UCC, in 2008, he discussed the Lisbon Treaty.

Though convincing, his speech didn't make much different to Ireland's view of Lisbon – famously, we nearly collapsed the whole thing by rejecting it. Only the tested democratic process of 'make them vote again' managed to change national sentiment.


Left queues up to strangle UHI

AMERICAN economist Michael Taft is the type of person you would expect to be in favour of health insurance for all. He is an adviser to the UNITE trade union and researcher for the Irish centre-left think-tank TASC.

He writes a blog called 'Notes On The Front', a title taken from an occasional column authored by James Connolly between 1912 and 1915.

So you would expect him to embrace Health Minister James Reilly's plans for universal health insurance (UHI).

After all, UHI would see the two-tier system of public and private patients being replaced by a single-tier system. There would be no queue-skipping.

The unemployed and those on very low incomes would have their health insurance paid for them by the State.

Surely socialists would be in favour of such a system?

Well not a bit of it. Taft has a strong blog on his website entitled 'Danger, Danger: the Government Health Insurance Model'. He feels the new system will be regressive as it will place too big a burden on the low- and medium-income earners. This flies in the face of social health-insurance models around Europe, he feels.

The unemployed will have their health cover paid for, but those on low incomes will end up being forced to take out insurance that will eat up a disproportionate amount of their income, compared with the higher-paid.

Taft is in good company. The Labour Party also appears to be lukewarm on UHI.


Dorgan bids to widen the NEDs gene pool

Ex-IDA boss Sean Dorgan had a lot to chat about when he sat down with The Punt recently. But he was keen to concentrate on the future, not the past. And one of the interesting topics of conversation was non-executive directors in Ireland.

Mr Dorgan agreed that the pool of NEDS, as they're commonly known, has typically been limited here. "I think there has been a tendency towards sameness, which is why I'm a great believer in diversity, not only in gender terms, but that you actually draw from a wider range of experience and perspectives," he said. (Dorgan currently mentors female executives aspiring to break through glass ceilings). His own view on the matter is interesting because he's just been appointed chairman of the Irish Management Institute. He's replacing Phil Nolan in the role. Nolan – a former Eircom CEO – was appointed chairman of Ulster Bank last year. He succeeded (drum roll), Sean Dorgan, who resigned the position after serving in it for five years.

Now, The Punt is tempted to say QED on the theorem that Ireland's NED pool is too small. But it's willing to be magnanimous on this occasion. The IMI for instance, has appointed a number of new board members in conjunction with Dorgan. And perhaps that mentoring that Mr Dorgan is involved in will see a new generation of Irish businesswomen at corporate top tables in the future.

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