Wednesday 20 February 2019

The Punt: FitzGerald says it's time to go

The ESRI's John FitzGerald is retiring. Gary O' Neill.
The ESRI's John FitzGerald is retiring. Gary O' Neill.
Austrian President Heinz Fischer

The Punt

After 30 years with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), John FitzGerald is retiring. At least he's retiring in theory, but in practice colleagues believe he'll still be working away.

David Duffy and Kieran Quinn of the institute paid tribute to him yesterday, at what was said to be his last quarterly economic commentary.

Mr Duffy noted Mr FitzGerald's enthusiasm for statistics and data, and in particular the Quarterly National Accounts from the Central Statistics Office.

"Regularly he would knock [on his office door] and burst in to tell me about something that he had been looking at in the national accounts, full of enthusiasm about how he can use the national accounts to get more insights into what happening in the economy," Mr Duffy said.

Mr Quinn, who has been with the ESRI since April, spoke of his generosity with his knowledge.

Mr FitzGerald, son of former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, was modest. And he went on to give an apt appraisal of the difficulties faced by economists today.

"In 1972, it was a jigsaw with 100 pieces with a nice coloured train and it was relatively easy to build your picture. Today it's 1,000 pieces and it's all sky. You have loads of information, but it's exceptionally difficult to work out what's going on," he said.

What will retirement bring? "I'll be moving down the road to Trinity for a teaching course," he said.

Slim does his bit for disabled

Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim has thrown his considerable financial weight behind a scheme to help more people with disabilities find jobs.

The Best Buddies non-profit organisation was founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, a member of the famous Irish-American political dynasty. His mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the Special Olympics.

Best Buddies campaigns on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and has launched its global 'I'm In to Hire' campaign to highlight the benefits to industry and employers of hiring workers with conditions such as Down syndrome and cerebral palsy.

Celebrities including actress Cheryl Hines and former Olympic athlete Carl Lewis have already signed the pledge.

"The 'I'm In to Hire' campaign is challenging all of us around the world to open our minds and consider people with intellectual and developmental disabilities as qualified, dependable, employable candidates," Mr Slim said.

A report from the Institute for Corporate Productivity found workers with disabilities are highly-motivated and dependable and improve efficiency among colleagues.

Fischer needs  a hot whiskey

Austrian President Heinz Fischer is in town, and yesterday he turned up as the guest of honour at the Irish-Austrian business forum in Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel.

Unfortunately, poor President Fischer had a cold.

"I have to apologise that my voice is not in its best form," he rasped.

Hoarser and hoarser the President became, and ten minutes in, when he was talking about cycling from Vienna to Bratislava, the Punt wondered if he would make it to the end.

But he did, and as President Fischer was leaving, the event host - mother of the nation Miriam O'Callaghan - asked Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan to get him a hot Irish whiskey.

The event was plagued by technological gremlins, as first Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon and then her Austrian counterpart Dr Walter Koren couldn't change their presentation slides.

Dr Koren suffered a pretty cruel twist of fate. He wanted to talk about the things that Irish people don't know about Austria, but got stuck on a slide designed to illustrate the things we do know.

Images of skiing and Mozart were seared into the Punt's brain.

Irish Independent

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